Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Explanation


School is rapidly coming to a close! Funny that it catches me off guard because it always ends at roughly the same time give or take a day or two every year. Deep down, I probably feel more urgency with my three Gospels classes than my two 8th grade sections because I'll get another shot, Lord willing, at the kids now in middle school. The rosters in my Gospels sections are filled out by youngsters I will never teach again. Back in September and October, the school years seems endless. As the calendar prepares to flip over to May, the time becomes incredibly brief. Intertwined with my curriculum and reviewing for finals, I'm also dealing with collecting/counting/sorting our Honduras/Haiti orphanage funds so I'm juggling lots of stuff. Good stuff, just a boat load of it.

On Monday, we will have Test # 10 covering three of the Savior's parables: The Two Sons, The Ten Virgins, and The Wicked Tenants. On Thursday, we spent the whole class on The Wicked Tenants. As I often do, I used a short film clip and I really liked the one posted below, relating the tenants to a modern day scenario. This is basically what I told them:

1.  Jesus told this parable several different times with slightly different details.
2.      This is told at the end of his ministry. Jesus view of messiah and that of many people in Israel was much different.
3.      In the last week of His life, Jesus forces the issue of who He was.
4.      There were many vineyards in Israel. It took much preparation to prepare land to be a vineyard.
5.      The land had to be cleared, the ground had to be plowed, a hedge was built around the property, and a wine press was dug.
6.      A tower was built so they could watch for trouble.
7.      Often, the owners would rent the land out in return for a share of what was produced.
8.      In this parable, the tenants continually refused to pay their rent and abused those sent to collect what was due. (There was quite a bit of this going on at the time in Israel.)
9.      The tenants finally kill the son sent to collect the bill and the owner seeks revenge.
10.    The owner is God, the vineyard is Israel, the tenants are the religious leaders, and the Son is Jesus.
11.    LESSONS:
a. Our responsibilities cannot be taken lightly. 
b. God is patient.
c. We can’t be neutral about Jesus.

As we finished the notes in sixth period on Thursday, I heard Eme blurt something out from her desk by the mural. Eme is a junior and her twin brother, Ekwere, is also in that section. Eme is a player turned manager for our high school girls basketball team and one of the hardest workers I know. And this is what she said from her desk next to the mural:
"Now it all makes sense!"

Jesus often taught with these short stories. Sometime, they seem very straightforward and easy to grasp. Sometimes, the meaning takes some digging as Jesus' disciples asked Him for a bit of private interpretations. As a teacher, I deal with many kinds of students. Some learn the material because they want a good grade or they might not want to disappoint their instructor. But sometimes, and undoubtedly more than I realize, some youngsters are really trying to figure out what the Lord is telling us in His book, about life and preparedness, righteousness and eternity, good and evil. Eme is in the roll book of that group and her statement reminds me that she is not alone. Jesus told us not everyone would understand but I think the seekers will. Next week is Teacher Appreciation Week at WCS. We will be praised and thanked and gifted and gushed over. But the best appreciation for me was given by a sixteen year old girl who simply spoke what was on her heart. That's why you teach.

To watch the film clip of The Wicked Tenants, click on or copy/paste the link below:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tv7L2qwMFk4


Applicable quote of the day:
Everyone hears only what he understands.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe



God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

Friday, April 29, 2016

Neither Rain Nor Snow.....

It's supposed to rain again this weekend, a seemingly never ending cycle in south Texas. This is about weather and it's from February 5, 2012.

Sometimes, I miss Nebraska. I don't miss the cold- it was 12 degrees in my hometown this morning according to yorknewstimes.com. I do miss the snow as seen in this picture taken yesterday by Cindi Toms Heiden, one of my FACEBOOK friends who lives in York, the community where she and I were both raised.
That's what I remember growing up; snow. With it came snowball fights, snow forts, snow men, sledding, and a tasty delicacy, snow ice cream. In Texas, it's rain and hurricanes. Last year was a terrible drought; twenty-five inches below normal which caused all sorts of problems, some I would never have imagined like busted water lines and crumbling parking lots. So far in this new year, we are more than three inches over average which means, using illogical projections, we'll make up last year's shortage by late August. I doubt that's going to happen.

We live in a world largely beyond our control, don't we? We can somewhat predict the weather but we can't change it. We adapt to it ...or we can move somewhere else which will have its own meteorological patterns. We can't predict what's going to happen in our lives, either. We can take precautions to protect ourselves from the unexpected and traumatic but in the end, we have to overcome and sometimes accept the hand we are dealt. I would have never guessed my mother would become an Alzheimer's statistic or my dad would suffer a debilitating stroke but when those things came about, complaining was useless. As believers, we have a hope that things will get better, if not here than certainly in our next existence. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13 that there will come a time when we will know, when things will be understandable. If you're like me, it's still a little bit fuzzy today. I think we're all just waiting for that everlasting break in the clouds. No more rain, no more snow, no more forecasts, and no more problems. And that, my friends, will be the best of all seasons.

Applicable quote of the day:
"Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get."
Mark Twain

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



Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Undiscovered Gifts



Twice during each school year, I attend our WCS Lower School chapel service. The first is always in late January when I announce the beginning of our Honduras/Haiti project where our school family collects loose change to help build and sustain Christian orphanages in the two poorest nations in our hemisphere. The second is late in April when I remind the kids that it's time to bring their bank bottles back in to me so we can began putting the coins to work. Today was my second visit of 2016. Since their chapel time is in the middle of our basketball practice, I took my squad with me and introduced them to the little ones. But as I did back in my January visit, I brought Cristina along. A sophomore in her second year at Westbury Christian, Cristina loves our school and is one of our Student Ambassadors. Cristina sat with me as we joined in the Pledge Of Allegiance and the singing of You're A Grand Old Flag and a short devotional led by Sarah Adams Romain's first graders. I was so proud of Sarah, my former Bible student! Cristina got into the devotional songs, especially Roll The Gospel Chariot Along! But she didn't come to help the children sound better. She came to translate for me. Many years ago, I started bringing my teacher's aide, Nancy Barrera, with me when I talked to the kindergarten through fourth graders about our work. Nancy would translate my words into Spanish, the language of Honduras, giving a sense of realism to my message. Since then, I've tried to replicate Nancy's presence when I could find a good translator, not always easy. With Cristina, I hit a home run. She might be the best interpreter I've ever worked with.... and she's only sixteen! As soon as the words came out of my mouth in English, they came out of her mouth in Espanol. I've been translated thousands of times in China and Vietnam as well as Honduras and here at home but Cristina's ability is just tremendous. And our little ones love her. We've got perceptive kids in our lower grades!

When my part was done and the chapel turned to Wordsmith Guild Awards with our librarian, Diane King, my crew and I hurried back to our building from the church auditorium where lower school chapel meets. My players scooted off to their chapel while I walked Cristina back to her last classroom to retrieve her backpack and laptop. I bragged on her, saying how proud I was of who she is and how her ability to seamlessly transform English into Spanish is a gift. Cristina's reply was something I won't soon forget:
"Coach, I believe I have many gifts I haven't discovered yet!"
WOW. She didn't say it in a boastful way or self-promoting way. No, she said it in an expectant, almost jubilant way! Teachers live in a world of emotional swings of the pendulum and enough self doubt to fill easily several galaxies. Teenage angst is symptomatic of so many youngsters but Cristina is having none of it. She is a daily breath of fresh air, a ray of undiluted light. She is blessed and knows it and does not back off from the responsibilities which are the price tag of those gifts of which she waits. You remember that song, "The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades?" That defines a certain young lady's outlook. We live in a gloomy world of pessimism and believe me, I see adults sucked into its vortex all the time. Truthfully, I wake up some mornings and wonder what will go wrong today. But when you realize the tools to change the world will be at your disposal as you find them in your repertoire, the sun shines a little brighter. All of us have been given talents and abilities by our Father in Heaven. Cristina simply has the gift of realizing it. That may be the greatest gift of all.


Applicable quote of the day:
Work while you have light. You are responsible for the talent that has been entrusted to you.
 Henri Frederick Amiel 

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


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Image Of Rick Barry



We start basketball camp at WCS in about a month. The following is about my annual lecture on the art of the free throw. It ran June 22, 2006.


Today is Thursday at Westbury Christian School Basketball Camps so that means two things:
1. Cookie Day 

2. Coach Hawley's Free Throw Clinic
I'm not sure how it began that I would deliver the demonstration on free throws but it has worked out that way for years. Apparently the job is mine by default. Some campers have heard it so often they could handle the presentation themselves. It's more than just how to put an unguarded shot into the rim from fifteen feet. I talk about routines in our lives and how we are comfortable with the manner in which we perform simple tasks. I mention distractions and their influence on shooters, especially at the college and NBA level. I speak of kids I've coached and how some were good shooters, some were poor, and one was great. I tell about my Grandfather Chesshir's well on his Arkansas' farm and its relation to being a high percentage shooter. But in the end, it boils down to two players, Rick Barry and Shaquille O'Neal. Shaq is regarded as the worst free throw shooter of any legitimate player and the recent NBA finals gave credence to that argument. Barry, on the other hand, was chosen as one of the NBA's Fifty All Time Greatest players and ranks second in career free throw percentage. In fact, Barry one year shot at a 94.7% clip, at the time the highest single season mark in professional basketball. Compare that to Shaq's absolutely horrible free throw percentage in the recently completed finals when he shot, are you ready for this, 29.2%! That isn't the focus of my talk to the kids, though. It centers on the way Barry shot his free throws- underhanded, like a little old lady. It wasn't that he couldn't shoot the conventional way. Barry was a terrific jump shooter. Early in his career, his father, a coach, convinced him to give the underhand method a try. Each year, I ask the boys on our very successful high school team this question: if you could be the best high school free throw shooter in America but with the proviso that you had to employ the Rick Barry underhand method, would you do it? The answer invariably is NO. Now take into account that being the best shooter in the country might pay for your college or move you up to the highest level of collegiate competition. It doesn't matter. Why would they pass up the chance to be the best in the country? Because it isn't cool and people would laugh at them. The reality is that many players would rather be average and cool than the best in the United States and out of step with peers. Let's not be too hard on the kids. Shaq, when approached by Barry, said the underhand technique would be hurt his public perception and he told Esquire Magazine he would "shoot zero per cent before I'd shoot underhanded." Image is everything, isn't it?

Don't get me wrong- I like Shaquille O'Neal. He works very hard and is a tremendous player, one of the best ever. I also think he is one of the good guys, not just in the NBA, but in sports in general. When George Mikan, one of the NBA pioneer greats, died last year, his wife was struggling to meet the financial arrangements for the burial. Guess who stepped in and paid for the funeral? The Big Diesel himself, poor free throw shooting not withstanding. I asked the kids today if they cared what people thought of them and most said no. I told them they were lying; we all care what others think. It's what holds so many of us back from accomplishing what is possible. In the Parable of the Rich Young Ruler, the man told Jesus how badly he wanted to gain eternal life. In his famous response, the Master told him to sell his goods, give the proceeds to the poor, and follow him. The man wanted to but couldn't do it. He knew he needed to but there was something he couldn't turn loose of- his fortune. With so many of us, it isn't the money. It's our image in the eyes of the world and it starts at a very early age. Just ask Rick Barry and our campers.


Applicable quote of the day:
"You could send him to the United Nations and he'd start World War Three."
Mike Dunleavy (NBA player and coach) on Rick Barry


God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1 

E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com

www.hawleybooks.com

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Earritating


I'm a routine guy. Monday through Friday during the academic year, my mornings are breathtakingly repetitive as I prepare to workout and then proceed to school. This morning saw a self-inflicted wrench tossed into my carefully choreographed checklist. As I was shaving, carelessly it turns out, my Gillette Mach 3 Razor sliced into my ear lobe. It bled through the ointment I applied and the toilet paper I pressed on to staunch the flow. Convinced I could live without a transfusion, I stayed on schedule and survived my swimming in a chlorine laden pool workout. The bleeding stopped but the questions started when school began. People who never comment on my appearance asked about the particulars and even pointed out the red stain on my my Jos A Bank ecru oxford shirt. I even had a prayer request from an 8th grader that my ear would heal quickly- thanks Haley! It's starting to scab over fifteen hours later so by Friday, I should be back to normal. No serious scar in the forecast!

Of all days, guess what my 8th graders quizzed over in class today? Luke 22:39-71 wherein the servant of the high priest gets his ear removed by a sword wielding apostle. We have to go to the other Gospels to find the apostle was Peter, the servant was Malchus, and the ear was the one on the right side of the poor guy's face. I find it fascinating that the final miracle of Jesus was not raising the dead or cleansing a leper. It was reattaching an ear to someone who was in the posse who arrived to arrest Him. I doubt Malchus would have died from the wound- one of my players had her ear severed in a car accident and successfully rejoined-  but Jesus made him physically whole after only seconds of being maimed. An act of kindness to repair the damage of an impetuous act inflicted by an impetuous man. You know, we've all been Malchus but then again, we've all been Peter. We've been damaged and we've caused damage. But the healing can still come from the One whose touch brought restoration to both the body and spirit. And I know you can hear what I'm saying.

Applicable quote of the day: 
“We scarcely know how much of our pleasure and interest in life comes to us through our eyes until we have to do without them; and part of that pleasure is that the eyes can choose where to look. But the ears can't choose where to listen.” 
Ursula K. Le Guin

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

Monday, April 25, 2016

Waiting Game


You often see the harsh side of life when you get called for jury duty. This entry is from May 26, 2009.

One of my mother's favorite mom-isms was, 'Many are called, but few are chosen.' Actually, it is a direct quotation from Jesus in Matthew 22:14, King James Version, although I did not recognize it the thousand or so times she recited it. I get the feeling it has applications to me and our legal system. For the third time in the last several years, I was summoned to appear and make myself available for jury duty. And for the third time, no action. We, about six hundred or so residents of Harris County, gathered early this morning in downtown Houston. As juror numbers were flashed on big screens- my number was 3208- I was placed in a pool with sixty-four strangers. We would be whittled to twelve and sit in judgement on a case two blocks away from the jury assembly location. We marched as a group to the Criminal Justice Building, took elevators to the fifteenth floor....and waited....and waited...and waited outside one of the courtrooms. Inside, negotiations were taking place involving a plea bargain. After almost two hours, we were informed the case had been settled and we were free to go home. Once again, my background in teaching US Government and Civics was allowed to go unappreciated. There will be another summons- maybe next time.

As we waited, we became restless. Standing for extended periods on tile floors takes a toll on the legs so a number of us sat down, backs to the wall. There were scattered conversations and some read their books. Some continually texted and some, like me, just sat. She came out of the court room opposite ours not long before we were excused. She could have passed for one of our older students if she had been wearing a school uniform. She was alone....and she was sobbing. Her face was devoid of hope and her body language spoke a defeated heart. I don't know what went on behind those closed court room doors but it wasn't good for her. She managed to get on the elevator across from me and disappeared.


I wish my students could have witnessed that thirty second scene that I watched this morning. From a practical standpoint, it was a great example of what happens when you get in the court system. From a spiritual perspective, I could not illustrate the judgement any better than she did. Her fate, however severe or lenient, was sealed. All of us were almost embarrassed to look at the grief-stricken girl. We probably felt it would be inappropriate to say anything or reach out in any manner so she remained by herself. It reminded me that in the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man, Lazarus is with Abraham in the afterlife and the (former) rich man is isolated. I hope it was a minor offense the young lady committed, but her life is about to change. That's the point- we still can change. There will come a time when there will be no going back, no appeals, no do-overs, no plea bargains. And on that day, the decision will not be left in the hands of a jury.

Applicable quote of the day:
"
A jury consists of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer.

Robert Frost

God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Fame And Funerals And Phil And Prince

If you're like me, the last several days on Facebook had a common theme. Sudden and unexpected death of an iconic legend. Public grieving over someone who truly made a difference in many lives. Shared memories and pictures taking us back to a happier, perhaps even sweeter, time. Then, yesterday, a remembrance of life in his hometown attended by those closest to the departed. Part of me wishes I could have been there. But then, Houston is a long way from Nebraska.

Nebraska, you say? I thought Prince was from Minnesota! He was but the opening paragraph was not about Prince whose death sent shock waves through social media as well as news outlets. The radio station at my fitness club went through an afternoon of Prince-only selections. Our minister, David Yasko, wore a purple tie this Sunday in honor of the late musician and even quoted from the opening lines- Dearly beloved- from the mega hit, Let's Go Crazy. I almost had a Prince moment early in the week in a devotional about The Bangles when I almost included the story of Prince giving them his song, Manic Monday, because he had a huge crush on lead singer Susanna Hoffs. Reports from those who knew Prince cast light on his giving and spiritual nature. Like all of us, he was flawed. But if you're reading this, or writing this, we have the blessing of still being alive. 

No, the opening paragraph was not about a musician whose talent may have rivaled Michael Jackson. Instead it was about Phil Towle, a man from York, Nebraska who defined York, Nebraska. He was born there, grew up there, starred in athletics there, and came back to teach future generations there. The Facebook tributes were heartfelt and touching as I knew they would be. Phil, or Coach to many, passed away suddenly last week at the age of eighty. He was as much a public servant as you could be, involved as a minister, mentor, teacher, elected official, volunteer, and in countless other ways. Every small town that thrives has men and women like Phil Towle. I mentioned this on Facebook but at the risk of redundancy, I'll repeat it. When I graduated from York High, my folks moved to California for a year so Dad could do his Ph.D internship at Pepperdine. I had no place to stay until the dorms opened at York College so Phil, his wife Gayle, and their kids Tom and Betsy took me in. I had a ten speed bike and a job at the Jack And Jill Supermarket and American Legion Baseball games at night and I had food and shelter. You know what's interesting? I didn't play football for Phil and I never had him as a teacher but it didn't matter. There was a need and he was there. My guess is there were thousands of stories like that this past week in a small town in Nebraska. That's just kind of the way things work.

I have another guess. That is none of my Facebook friends mourning Prince had a relationship with him. That's OK- we all need heroes from afar. But I would also guess everyone who mentioned Phil on Facebook knew him well. Prince was famous in an international way but Phil was famous in a 6,000 population midwestern community kind of way. There's a difference. That's me signing autographs in the shot at the top of the page. The young lady is Jolanda Junge, not sure about the boys. It was at a fund raising basketball game at the City Auditorium to purchase weight room equipment for YHS and my guess is Phil organized the event and maybe even played against the opponents, members of the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers football team. The kids had books to acquire the valuable Husker signatures but asked for mine as well, probably because I played on the basketball team and sometimes got  my picture in the newspaper. When my family moved away, so did I. But folks like Phil, they are lifers. If you aren't from Nebraska, you probably never heard of Phil but believe me, he influenced several generations and that won't stop with his passing. I always thought it was interesting that when yet to be king David was given a chance to become the son in law of King Saul, he seemed reluctant, saying in 1 Samuel 18:23 that he was little known. This was after he had slayed Goliath and the crowds had already made up legends about him. You know, maybe Phil thought he was little known but like David, nothing could have been farther from the truth. He mattered because people like him always matter. We just need to make sure they know before they die.

Applicable quote of the day:
"I don't believe in age. When you wake up, each day looks the same so each day should be a new beginning. I don't have an expiration date."
Prince


God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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