Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Burden


This coming Friday afternoon, I will get my last haircut before my mission trip to Vietnam. The lady who cuts my hair is excited for me as I go for the seventh time to her native land. She is also the lady spoken of below. I would be lost without her! This is from April 10, 2009, eleven days after the passing of my mom.

There was no school today due to Easter weekend. I did two things I haven't done in quite awhile. Our apartment pool opened back up today and I ran thirty minutes in chin deep water for the first time since November. After the water workout, I went for a haircut. This is what amazed me: the Vietnamese lady who cuts my hair already knew about Mom dying! A brother from our congregation whose hair she also cuts told her several days ago. The whole time she was cutting my hair, she was speaking of Mom (and Dad) and I think she was on the verge of tears. She felt so bad for me! Her English is broken and I could not make sense of all she said but I am sure of this- she was grieving on my behalf. What a great example for Christians. We are repeatedly admonished to bear each other's burdens and weep with those who weep but I guess I have mostly considered that applicable to simply other Christians, close friends, and family. I don't think this lady knows my name as she simply refers to me as 'Teacher.' But she honored me by her grief and in doing so, honored my family. And, I got a very good haircut, too!

Applicable quote of the day:
"When it seems that our sorrow is too great to be borne, let us think of the great family of the heavy-hearted into which our grief has given us entrance, and inevitably, we will feel about us, their arms and their understanding."

Helen Keller


God bless,
Steve

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

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Elevator


Good evening from the Hilton Inn, or at east one of them, in Fort Worth, Texas! I am here for the beautiful wedding which took place several hours ago between Yanping, a beautiful young lady from my congregation and Chris, the lucky guy who left today with his new wife on his arm. I was supposed to spend the night with college friends Jim and Dana but they had to go out of town unexpectedly so we will reconnect in the morning when they return. I was blessed by being given a first floor room within about fifteen seconds from the front desk where the wonderful Ashley checked me in. You might ask why that is important. If you have been keeping up to date recently, you know I am recovering, quite nicely, from a knee injury. Due to this condition, I have not climbed any stairs in twelve days. Suddenly, the elevator on my apartment complex floor and the elevator at my school have become vitally important to me. Back in the spring, the elevator on my end of our floor kept going out of order. No problem for me as I always took the stairs. But my neighbor Frank, a vet, was wounded in Vietnam and has to use a walker to get around. To get to the other elevator on our floor would require a very long walk plus opening two heavy doors. If, heaven forbid, both elevators were out concurrently, Frank would be stranded at best and trapped at worst. All of a sudden, I'm seeing Frank's daily existence in a whole new light.

I never thought about the concept of access until I met Ronnie Doak. Ronnie was the director of development when I taught and coached at Friendship Christian School. A terrific athlete in high school, Ronnie was paralyzed in a gym accident and was forced to learn a brand new way to live. He did and did so admirably, being a terrific fund raiser for our school which paled in comparison to his role as husband to his lovely wife and daddy to their two terrific kiddos. Through modifications to his car and later his van, Ronnie was able to drive and there were times I went along with him to visit businesses or attend school functions. What I became aware of was that there were places Ronnie had great difficulty getting into or simply was blocked because of the construction of the building; no ramp, a very high curb, no available parking places to accommodate his needs. He handled it better than I did. It was the first time I had seen life though his eyes..... but then I always returned to my world. (One of my favorite Ronnie stories had to do with my coaching. We had put a great deal of time and effort into fixing up our girls' basketball locker room on the second floor of our old gym which had no elevator. Ronnie asked me to take a video camera and give him a visual tour so he could see what I had bragged about!)

Access to where we want to go with our bodies in the physical realm is important but it is dwarfed by the need for access in the spiritual realm. My parents were surrogate parents and mentors to many youngsters and some middle aged folks who were dealing with issues often dating back to childhood. As a boy, I recall vividly the phone ringing off the wall with people wanting and needing to speak to and be counseled by Mom and Dad. But sometimes they weren't home and sometimes they were busy. I didn't realize how blessed we were as our folks' children to have constant access to our parents.We didn't have to make an appointment or stand in line. We, logically, were the priority to our father and mother. Their door was always open to us. The word access is used just twice in the New Testament, both times by Paul. In Romans 5, he speaks of having access through Jesus into grace by faith. In Ephesians, 2:18, Paul talks of the Gentiles now having  a relationship with God as do his Jewish brethren:
For through Him (Jesus) we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

What a joy that we may approach Jehovah God because Jesus our Savior provided that access through His sacrifice, and especially for those of us who are Gentiles! It's likely I'll relegate elevators back to overlooked status as I heal and return to the stairs. Woe to me if I neglect the access I have to the Father. Honestly, it never dawned on me that unlimited interaction with our parents was special. I learned it when they aged and died and I got older and smarter. I can't talk to my folks anymore and believe me, I miss it. But I have something even better than the time spent with my mom and dad. I have access to my Father and theirs. And he's never to busy to take my call.

Applicable quote of the day:
If you die in an elevator, be sure to push the Up button. 
Sam Levenson

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

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Imperfect Man

We love a good baseball story in Houston right now as the Astros possess the best record in Major League Baseball! This is one of my favorite baseball stories, from October 8, 2013.

As I do every day, I looked early this morning for a random bonus question for our quiz in my classes which today covered Genesis 37. Often, it's along the lines of my niece Karis' middle name (Elizabeth) or who does my old Nebraska high school play this Friday night in football? (Columbus)This morning, I turned to one of those Today In History sights and found a topic I could use. On this day on 1956, the only perfect game in World Series history was pitched as Don Larsen of the New York Yankees hurled a masterpiece as the Bronx Bombers knocked off their despised cross town rivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers, by a 2-0 score. Larsen pitched fifteen years in the major leagues but I would dare say most baseball fans, even the most die hard, remember his career solely for that Game 5 gem on the afternoon of October 8, 1956.

One of the fascinating aspects of the professional life of Don Larsen, in which he pitched for seven different teams, is that he was what most would consider a journeyman, retiring with a losing record of 81-91. In 1954, pitching for the woeful Baltimore Orioles, Larsen led the league.......... in losses, posting a dismal 3-21 record. And yet, for one magic moment in time, he was untouchable and the picture of his celebratory hug with legendary Yankee catcher Yogi Berra after the 27th and final out remains one of the greatest and most recognizable baseball photos in history. And as Larsen himself once noted, his record can only be tied- it can never be broken.

From all I've read, Don Larsen, who still is alive at age 84, had a pretty good handle of who he was as a player and what happened fifty-seven years ago in Yankee Stadium from this quotation:
 "The imperfect man pitched the perfect game."
What a perfectly succinct summary of an event which has been the topic of countless discussions and articles and several books. Perfection remains elusive to us mortals, even on a small scale like a ball game. Paul tells us that it won't always be that way.In his treatise on love in 1 Corinthians 13, he reveals this prophecy in verse 10:
but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. (RSV)
I don't know about you but I'm ready for a little perfection! I've had enough of the mistakes that I make hourly while trying to remain sinless even for one day. Some day! And so here's to the elderly Don Larsen tonight on the anniversary of his legendary feat. I wonder if he relived that long ago moment today. On this side of eternity, he was immortal for one afternoon.

Applicable quote of the day:
"Have no fear of perfection- you'll never reach it."
Salvador Dali

PS : Greatest post game question ever asked:
Associated Press reporter to Don Larsen in the Yankee club house after his perfect game:

"Is that the best game you ever pitched?" 

God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Hit And Run


Several days ago, I read an article by sportswriter Tom Verducci about the changing nature of the way baseball is played in the major leagues. One point he made is that the ancient strategy of the hit and run has almost disappeared on the professional level. I witnessed a perfectly executed hit and run eleven days ago. Unfortunately, I wasn't watching a baseball game when it happened. Perhaps only thirty seconds after exiting my apartment complex on my way to Sunday morning worship service, I was behind a vehicle as I pulled up to a STOP sign, preparing to turn left across traffic on Fondren, a fairly busy street. My mind was elsewhere as the guy (I'm assuming it was a guy) headed across the accumulative four lanes. There was a minivan coming the other way at I would guess the speed limit which is 35 MPH on Fondren. The car, also a minivan type, ahead of me nailed the other vehicle. He never slowed down, either never seeing the other car or thinking he could beat them to the point. It wasn't quite as bad as the picture above but it isn't totally far fetched either. I was stunned and as I was at the STOP sign, I jumped out of my Honda and took a couple of steps towards the intersection. THEN, the car that caused the accident took off! The lady in the other car got out and started screaming at him as he took off into the neighborhood behind Fondren. And he got away... I think. A bunch of people came out of the adjacent laundry mat with the noise of the crash so someone may have a license plate or at least a description for the police. It will be hard to hide the damage.

Why would someone run away from the damage they caused another when they were so obviously at fault? Maybe they had been drinking or had no insurance. Perhaps their license was suspended or there was an outstanding warrant for their arrest. It doesn't matter. They could have caused a fatality and there was at least one child in the other vehicle. But we see the same mentality in everyday life. People who should know better walk away from situations, sometimes catastrophic ones, that they caused without as much as a backwards glance. It's easier to run away than to own up to the mistake/mistakes. We see it in kids in school and kids on athletic teams. Excuses outnumber the taking of responsibility. The kids have learned it from the adults or at the minimum have had it reinforced by the adults. Teachers and coaches, two groups  in which I claim membership, are as guilty as anyone. So are Christians, another one of my subsets. Often, we have created crises in our congregations and solve them by going somewhere else. I'm not blameless here. Many years ago, I switched churches over a disagreement at a sporting event. I showed a great deal of maturity back in the day. I would guess one definition of spiritual growth is the willingness to confront our mistakes and make the necessary corrections/apologies/pleas for forgiveness. It's easier to just drive off into the neighborhood and leave others to clean up our messes which is what I saw first hand. But collisions, even emotional ones, cause damages. And damages need to be repaired and paid for.

Applicable quote of the day:
I compare it to being in a car accident. There's so much adrenaline rushing through you that you remember being in the accident but you don't remember any of the details. 
Brooke Langton

God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Friends Like That



If you are a regular reader, you know there have been several references the past week about my situation with a knee that seemingly out of nowhere left me with very limited mobility and unlimited (in my exaggerated state of mind) pain. My short-term life has changed significantly; no working out, can't coach basketball camp, and I've been outside the confines of my apartment very little in the past seven days. Because I was not able to straighten my left leg, driving became nearly impossible. The Lord blessed me with neighbors like Paul and Ann Arnold. They live in the same complex as me as well as being colleagues at WCS and fellow members of the same congregation. Sunday, they picked me up for worship, having to help me put my shoe on in the process. On Monday, Ann was my ride to school and back for camp. While at school Monday, I was able to ascertain,that the specialist recommended to me by our former athletic trainer was indeed on our insurance and was able to secure an 8:30 AM appointment at his office in Sugar Land, about a thirty minute drive with the morning traffic. This created a problem with my not being able to drive. No problem- Paul graciously gave up his morning to be my chauffeur and made sure I got everywhere I needed, a time frame that took about four hours. And now I'm on the road to recovery.

Let me go back to my opening line: If you are a regular reader...... If you are, you might remember several days back  my referencing a WALMART cashier who wished me Happy Father's Day even though I'm not a dad. Well, this young lady was working yesterday when I took my anti-inflammatory prescription into WALMART for filling. She saw the sleeve and asked why I was limping. I told her I would be back through her line in a little while and I kept my promise after picking up the medication along with a cart of groceries. As she rang up my order, I told her about my morning. I told her Paul took me to the doctor, waited for me, took me to school to tell Trey Austin about my camp situation, and how he was waiting in the parking lot outside so he could take me home after I finished my shopping. And she said, "I wish I had a friend like that." I'll be honest. My mind may have added the like that to her declaration. It doesn't really matter. What she said is the harsh reality of life to many in this increasingly cold and lonely world.


As we pulled away from the store, I told Paul what the young lady had told me. She's from another country and may not have family here or a good network of friends. I took a quick inventory as I kind of grieved for her. I have more friends like than Paul and Ann than I can count. I could have picked up the phone and called any number of people and received the same assistance, but who would she call? It's a security blanket, knowing if there is a crisis, I won't be left by myself. My school family and church family, which is somewhat cross pollinated, are the families I have here while living without biological kin. My confidence doesn't come from a common business address or the nearness of church pews, though. It comes from the bond in Jesus Christ. I listened to the epistle of 1st John today as I concentrated on healing. What struck me was the continual references to dear friends and love. So many miss those bonds which mark believers in Him. My hope is I'm as good a friend to those in need as Paul and Ann. I'm an introvert which doesn't always lend itself to a quantity of friendships but my hope is others can call me if they needed a ride, a hand to move furniture, or just an ear to listen. I'm blessed beyond measure tonight even if I still walk with a limp. But you can be sure that I'm not walking alone, even when I'm simply icing down my knee.


Applicable quote of the day:
Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light. 
Helen Keller

God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Been To Canaan.... And Can Tho


I was back at basketball camp Monday after spending last Thursday/Friday on the disabled list due to a knee issue. This morning, I was seen by a very highly respected knee specialist. After drainage and a shot, along with a prescription and the ordering of rest, ice, and a compression sleeve, I think I will live. I don't think my July 5th departure to Vietnam is endangered but do keep me in your prayers. And on a sad note, basketball camp is over for me for this June.

Before our afternoon camp session began at 12:45 yesterday afternoon, I was sitting at one of the lunch tables in our cafeteria when I struck up a conversation about basketball with a gentleman who had dropped off one of our campers. There was one more step I had to take before I joined the staff on the court. I had taken my shoes off at lunch and subsequently could not put my left one back on, as the range of motion in my left knee prohibited the procedure. One of our coaches, Augusta Guthrie, came over and graciously fitted it on my foot and perfectly tied the laces. The man asked and I told him I had somehow injured myself in Vietnam and it had without warning recurred. He asked what I had been doing in Vietnam and I explained I had spent the past six, soon to be seven, months of July in Can Tho, working with a church and the English school established by some of the members. He told me he had been in Vietnam as well.... as a soldier. I asked how long he was there and it will take a long time for me to forget his answer, word for word:
"Twelve months, sixteen days."
He told me the name of his airborne unit. I told him Vietnam is a beautiful country; his recollection was different. I told him that if I had known as a kid I would be riding down the Mekong River in a small boat, which I have done, it would have been in combat. He laughed as I recall. Then he said something I thought was very poignant. My new friend told me he really struggled for twenty years after his return from Southeast Asia but after several decades, he began feeling yearnings to return to the place he hoped he would never see again. He asked about volunteer possibilities and  I told him although mine is a unique situation, I am sure there are programs where he would be welcomed. The whistle blew, the conversation had to end, but our conversation has stayed with me the past twenty-four hours.


When I was young, I loved the Carole King song, Been To Canaan. It was kind of a love song but more one filled with nostalgia:
Been so long, I can't remember when
But I've been to Canaan and I wanna go back again....

That's  the way I feel about Vietnam and more each successive trip. And in a funny way I think that's the way that soldier has begun to feel. One of the great gifts I believe the Lord has blessed humans with is the ability to move past the past over time. We might need to make peace with a decision or a mistake or a heartache or a nightmare. For the closure, we might have to walk those fields and streets one more time that we despised. Sometimes we have to forgive, sometimes we have to be forgiven, and sometimes we have to forgive ourselves. Lord willing, I'll be back in Vietnam in eighteen days to be blessed by those I have come to love in the Lord. Someday, I hope my friend can go there to put some bad dreams to rest. We all have our reasons.


Applicable quote of the day:
“We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.” 
 Pascal Mercier


To listen to Carole King sing, Been To Canaan, click or copy/paste the link below:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4REEmty-8xw

God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

Monday, June 19, 2017

Bargain Treasures


What has little value to the world might be an unbelievable treasure! This entry from February 25, 2007 is about a great discovery of American history that was sold at slightly below market value!


You might have seen the story on the news. Michael Sparks, a man who works in the music industry in Nashville, has come into possession of a rare piece of American history, a copy of the Declaration of Independence. One of two hundred replicas commissioned by President John Quincy Adams in 1820, the document has been valued at a minimum of $250,000, and will soon be auctioned off. Authenticated by experts and believed to be one of only thirty-seven surviving prints, the find has produced enormous publicity in the past week. The incredible spin on the tale is that Sparks found the gem on a table in a thrift store in the Tennessee capital with a price tag of....$2.48! Roughly speaking, Michael Sparks will cash in his investment with a net return yield of 100,000%! I need that guy to handle my tax shelter annuity!

During my career as a history instructor, I would decorate my classroom wall with a mock version of the Declaration of Independence. Each year, my students would memorize the second paragraph, which is introduced with WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE SELF-EVIDENT and includes those unalienable rights, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Honestly, when you do extensive memory work, you get to the point where you can recite the passage, correct the kids, and plan basketball practice drills mentally at the same time. It is wonderful bit of Americana that Michael Sparks is about to become rich through his good fortune and his shrewd instincts in purchasing what no one else seemed interested in. The treasure of the Declaration, though, lies not in its auction value but in the lofty ideals it represents. Other historical museum pieces might fetch higher bids but none is equal in human worth to the several phrases penned primarily by a young Thomas Jefferson in 1776. In Second Corinthians 4, Paul describes the gospel of Jesus Christ as treasure, packaged in our weakness labeled as jars of clay. In First Peter 1, the apostle told his readers, believers who had been scattered to the corners of the world, that their faith was superior in value to the most sought after human currency, gold. Society wouldn't see it in those terms. How many walked past that same yellowed piece of parchment that Michael Sparks gambled, if $2.48 is a gamble, could make him a fortune? I heard him say on television that it isn't about the money. Maybe so but I bet he doesn't refuse his payday. Many are searching for the treasure of Jesus in the twenty-first century, poking around in the thrift shops that we disguise as our culture. If believers are doing their part, it should be an easy find. The difference in Christianity and the world is that the world hoards and hides its treasures while we should strive to spread the wealth of salvation. Maybe we are like that thrift shop table and just hope somebody stumbles across us. What was it Jesus said about a city on a hill? It couldn't be hidden? He was right- we need to come out of the dust bins.


Applicable quote of the day:
"Man is an animal that makes bargains: no other animal does this- no dog exchanges bones with another."
Adam Smith

God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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