Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The Sound Of Silence

Since I wrote this, I have upgraded to a regular cell phone which I use infrequently. The following,  from December 27, 2008, may explain why I am slow to embrace the new world.

For Christmas, Scott bought Karen one of those little Bluetooth cell phone head sets. Scott says, and his children concur, that Karen can be a hazard driving to school, holding her cup of coffee and talking on the cell phone at the same time. The Bluetooth earpiece is a perfect solution. There was a problem, however. Karen's phone was damaged when it got wet and wouldn't adapt to the Bluetooth. After Scott was unsuccessful in his attempts to repair the damage, Karen spent several hours yesterday in a Verizon store buying a new phone. This morning, she sat on the couch programming her Christmas present. Unbeknownst to me, you can have a distinct ring tone song on a cell phone to distinguish callers. Karen had one for Seth and was kidding Scott about what would be his signature tune. Not wanting to be left out, I inquired as to what my signature music would be. My lovely sister-in-law informed that I never call her so I don't warrant my own ring tone. Understandably, I was devastated and retreated to the downstairs bedroom where I reside while in their home. There was only one option. I took it.

You may not know this but I have a pre-paid cell phone I use when traveling. Someone from church gave it to me anonymously for Christmas last year when Dad's health was such an issue. I admit it has come in handy and I continue to add enough minutes to keep it functional. When Karis programmed it for me last December, she put her mother's number on instant dial. So, from the basement of Scott and Karen's house, perhaps for the first time, I rang Karen's number. I could hear her laughing upstairs as she picked up the phone and I demanded my own musical identification. She asked my preference and I requested Hey, Tonight by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Karen relented and so now, whenever I call, she'll know it's her favorite brother-in-law from Houston. The question remaining is when, and if, that call will come.

I wonder if the Lord ever feels like Karen does with my very infrequent attempts at communication. Seth calls Karen constantly and she expects to hear from him. No matter how many times he calls from his military base in Alaska, she never is too tired or busy to listen. She delights in hearing from her oldest son as well as his beautiful bride, Lauren. I think she'd love sharing a line with me, too- I just don't make the effort. The Scriptures are filled with the blessings flowing from the outpouring of prayer from the believer to a loving Father. Karen did not perceive my cell phone calls as justifying my own ring tone, one meant just for me. I wonder if God would have that same perception regarding my prayer life. In a practical sense, would I have to add minutes if I used my cell phone to contact the Lord? He always listens and awaits my call but there has to be a voice coming from my end. It takes two to have a conversation. Karen is not alone- I need the Lord on my speed dial.

To hear my ring tone, click below!

Applicable quote of the day:
"I drive with my knees. Otherwise, how can I put on my lipstick and talk on my phone?"
Sharon Stone

God bless,
Steve (brother-in-law of Karen)
Luke 18:1

E-mail me at shawley@westburychristian.org

Monday, July 13, 2020


I still don't like shaving! This is from April 26, 2016!
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,
Luke 18:1
E-mail me at shawley@westburychristian.org

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Febreze Day

It may not make sense to you but once a year, we celebrate Febreze Day in Room 258. Read below, from February 17, 2006 to find out more! (PS: If you know someone at Hallmark who could market this for me, I could make a killing!)

It's not on the calendar as a national holiday but today is Febreze Day. It would be more properly referred to as a regional holiday. There is no exchanging gifts, no sending cards, banks remain open, and mail is delivered. Actually, it is only celebrated in Room 258, Westbury Christian School. To the uninitiated, Febreze is a fabric deodorizer but that doesn't do it justice. It's one of the best smells I've encountered. (#1: Red Door Perfume. #2: Steak on an outside grill.) It's a long story how my life was changed by this Procter & Gamble product so I'll give you the short version. In 1998, I loaned my Aerostar Van to co-workers Wes and Rachel Hanson for several months after their car was totaled. The Hansons were proud parents of identical infants, Eric and Andrew. As you know from watching CSI, we leave traces of ourselves wherever we go. Andrew and Eric, typical baby boys, left lots of traces. When the van came back to me, it was scrubbed and the carpet/seats were soaked with Febreze. I asked Rachel what that Eden-like aroma was and she told me. I informed her that if they gave me a birthday present, all I wanted was a bottle of Febreze. She remembered. When my birthday rolled around, Rachel called me to her receptionist's desk and presented me with the bottle. We were studying the hymn Footprints Of Jesus in my classes at the time. It seemed logical to use the Febreze as a teaching tool. On my birthday, I sprayed my students' feet with Febreze. Everywhere they went for the remainder of the day, they left a great scent behind as evidence of their presence. (I wonder if Gil Grissom can detect DNA from Febreze on footwear?) Febreze Day, from that humble beginning, has evolved into an extravaganza which students anticipate and plan their year around.

There are many applications to make with the kids on this special holiday. Paul told the Corinth Christians that 'we are the aroma of Christ.' (2 Corinthians 2:15) Peter wrote that Jesus left us an example that we 'should follow in his steps.' (1 Peter 2:21) Do you know people who make everything they participate in worse? I had a girl who played high school basketball for me. She caused major headaches for the group as a whole. I didn't realize she was the source until she departed. When she left, conflicts abated immediately. On the other hand, there are those who make every situation they become involved with better. They change the atmosphere and dynamics of the group instantly in a positive way. The difference between the types of people is like the contrast between those who step in dog doodoo and those who have their shoes saturated with Febreze. Which do you want to walk into your living room? Which kind of person am I? We will be the smell of death or life in a world which desperately needs the scent of the Savior. The choice is ours... and we don't even have to wait for a special holiday.

Applicable quote of the day:
"Did you know that babies are nauseated by the smell of a clean shirt?"
Jeff Foxworthy

God bless,
Steve (Founder and Chief Historian of Febreze Day)
Luke 18:1

E-mail me at shawley@westburychristian.org

Saturday, July 11, 2020

J.D., Linda, And Prayer

If this seems like a broken record over the last several weeks, it probably is. I've mentioned my former student/basketball manager/one of my most favorite people in the world, Jenny Haynes Parish, made me a ten volume CD set called Coach Hawley's Groovy Tunes and she knows my musical tastes! That brings me to the ninth selection/Volume 1. My latest obsession is J.D. Souther's You're Only Lonely. Years ago, I wrote a blog about Roy Orbison and his gut wrenching hit, Only The Lonely. I've long figured there was a connection between the two- both Souther and Orbison were Texans- but apparently, there isn't. Orbison's classic was autobiographical while Souther's masterpiece was inspired, in his own words, by a beautiful woman who was insecure about being alone. Many have long assumed she was Linda Ronstadt who worked with J.D. He wrote a number of hits for The Eagles and was even  offered the chance to join the band but that never came about. In 1979, Souther was working on an album with producer Waddy Wachtel who asked if he had a faster, single type song to add to the mix. Souther had written You're Only Lonely several years ago and mentioned it but argued it was flawed; it lacked a bridge, a chorus, and a third verse. After hearing the song, Wachtel told him to just sing the first verse again at the end and the rest is history. It made it to # 7 on Billboard and spent five weeks at # 1 on the Adult Contemporary charts. Too bad it was such a flawed piece of work!

Assuming the song's object was indeed Ms. Ronstadt, I find the lyrics fascinating. Why would anyone as famous/gorgeous/talented as Linda deal with loneliness? The same reason all of us do. The first verse goes like this:
When the world is ready to fall on your little shoulders,
And when you're feeling lonely and small,
You need somebody there to hold you.
You can call out my name... When you're only lonely,
Now, don't you ever be ashamed, you're only lonely,

J.D., which stands for John David, captured the essence of the human condition. We are social creatures with a deep need for companionship. I've only rarely felt what I consider true loneliness but I can see where it could be debilitating. J.D. was offering himself as a willing listener when there was no one else to talk to. But the Bible offers an even better solution to our feeling of being forgotten! Check out these words of consolation!
Psalm 91:15 
When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.
Psalm 50:15 And call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”
Isaiah 65:24 Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.
Psalm 91:14-16 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
What's even better is that Jesus tells us in Luke 18:7 that God will act on the behalf of His chosen ones who cry out to Him day and night. He is always there ready to listen; when we are in despair or ashamed or frightened and yes, lonely. My guess is J.D. likely wrote his lyrics to impress the girl of his dreams; guys have been know to do that kind of thing. But our God? He just loves us, even when we are ugly and guilt ridden. He has no reason to impress us- He is the Creator of the universe. And still, He wants us to call out His name for every reason and for no reason. There is no greater  love.

To listen to J.D. Souther perform You're Only Lonely, click or copy/paste the link below:

Applicable quote of the day:
Maybe true love isn't out there for me, but I can sublimate my loneliness with the notion that true love is out there for someone.
Roxane Gay

God bless,
Luke 18:1

E-mail me at shawley@westburychristian.org

Friday, July 10, 2020

Does Jesus Care?

She's all grown up now but I vividly remember the day recounted below when she was a sixth grader. Rachel was unlike any other young lady I've ever coached. The story below, from March 2, 2006, is about an incident that happened the first year she was on my team. 

I was in the upper school office when she walked in this morning and sat down. I coach the middle school girls' basketball team at Westbury Christian and she is one of my players. Jokingly, I asked if she was in trouble. This girl NEVER gets into trouble. To my astonishment, she nodded...and burst into tears. The tears kept flowing when I walked out. Trying to save her further embarrassment, I avoided eye contact. A little behind the scenes investigative work gave me a measure of insight into her offense, although I am still not quite sure of the specifics. Later in the day, I saw her and pulled her aside. I told her if she could count to a million, she could total up all the mistakes I've made. Additionally, I made sure she understood I was proud of her, not for her error, but for her reaction to its consequence. She was grieved by what she had done, perhaps even bewildered. I grieved for her because I know the feeling.

I don't know what it's like to have kids and ache for them but this morning was as close as I have come in a long time. Almost every confession I hear from kids contains the word BUT.
"I did it, but...." "I was wrong, but..." You can fill in the blanks. It was so refreshing to see genuine remorse for actions. I know the Lord must be touched when we come to the point that little girl did, when we wish we could disappear and we genuinely take a silent oath to never stumble again. Of course, it's not long to we fall again and we repeat the same vow of purity. What a blessing to realize we are not alone in our battle with sin. In 1st Peter 5:7, we are told to "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." Frank Graeff used that verse as the basis for his hymn of comfort, Does Jesus Care? The third verse addresses the guilt we suffer for our sins:

Does Jesus care when I've tried and failed
To resist some temptation strong?
When for my deep grief I find no relief
Though my tears flow all the night long?

The questions the song raises are answered in the chorus:

Oh yes, he cares! I know he cares!
His heart is touched with my grief.

If I can be touched by the tears of a little girl, how much more will my Father and his Son be moved by my entreaties and tears? I can guarantee you one thing: they get plenty of practice!

Applicable quote of the day:
"The tears of those repenting are the wine of angels."
St. Bernard

To listen to this wonderful hymn, click or copy and paste the link below:

God bless,

Steve/Coach Hawley
Luke 18:1

E-mail me at shawley@westburychristian.org

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Smurfs And Coaching

Sydney and Lizeth are now rising college sophomores now, seven years after this was written. They remain two of my absolute all-time favorites and why coaching in a small school is so special. This is from September 22, 2013.
We had a test on Friday in all of my five Bible classes and it's new to some of our students. I put an essay question on the exam dealing with the weaknesses we see in Lot in Genesis but we are told in 2 Peter 2 that same Lot is a righteous man with a righteous soul. How can we reconcile those two different lines of reasoning? My schedule has me off 8th period for one of the very few times in my career. I leave my room a minute or two early so I can be standing at the confluence of the two upstairs upper school hallways when the end of the day bell rings. Originally, in years past, I would be sort of a behavior monitor but we really don't need that anymore. I just like saying goodbye to our kids and try to meet some of the new ones who aren't in my class. I mentioned Friday was a test day so as soon as the bell ring on Thursday afternoon, Alejandra met me and needed help. She had a very logical question about our test the next day: What and where is 2 Peter? Alejandra has only been in the US for several weeks, leaving her family in Ecuador to live with relatives and study at WCS. We stepped into the glass enclosed high school office right behind us, found a Bible, and looked up the passage so Alejandra was good to go. I'm amazed how much I think my students realize, even though 2/3rds of Alejandra's classmates that period are international students from China, Japan, and Tanzania! (She ended up making an A on the test!)

As we turned back around to re-enter the hallway, I saw two of my basketball players with their faces pressed up against the glass. It was Sydney and Lizeth, seventh graders who are in their second year of playing for me.I thought they might have needed to ask me a question about practice the next morning or were reminding me that Friday is ALWAYS Capri Sun day for the Lady Wildcats...but those had nothing to do with their presence. No, they reminded me they ALWAYS give me a high five at the end of the day when they pass by and they couldn't leave without it. I'm not sure how long they were standing there but I know I talked to Alejandra for several minutes and I know Sydney and Lizeth have places to be. Yet, they took time to remember our tradition and that is priceless.

I had a high school football coach (Bill Bryson for you FCS guys!) tell me that if a male coach coaches a girls' team and has a good experience, he never wants to go back to coaching boys...and I learned he was exactly right. I love my teams and Lizeth and Sydney are prime examples of why. Last year, as sixth graders, they were the two smallest girls on the team so we deemed them The Smurfs. Sydney, our only left hander, has parents who both are very tall so her days of Smurfdom are probably coming to a close. Lizeth, who was born in Colombia, has the greatest accent ever and may be the most easily lovable person I've ever met, based simply on how others react to her. Both are excellent students, awesome teammates, obedient daughters, and the definition of the kind of players a coach loves to have on his or her team. Their standing at the window last week honored me in a way they probably can't understand at this point in their young lives. I read daily news articles on sports websites and so much of it is negative and heartbreaking. Not in my coaching world. Tomorrow, we'll cover the correct angle of setting screens and moving without the ball. But, we'll also just maybe bring up who is sitting with who at lunch and why I didn't really go back on my word when I bought red NIKES and how Coach Marie, our student coach, is the 11th grade Homecoming attendant! And the fifteen of us will pray and I'll remind them that their folks love them and I love them and ask the Father to bless them. And when the day is in the spent column, I'll give them a high five and return them to their parents. I wish every coach was so blessed.

Applicable quote of the day:
When people ask me now if I miss coaching UCLA basketball games, the national championships, the attention, the trophies, and everything that goes with them, I tell them this: I miss the practices. 
John Wooden

*photo by Preston Hill!*

God bless,
Luke 18:1

E-mail me at shawley@westburychristian.org

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

If Only: The Confluence of Rebecca, Rudyard, Eric, James, And Yanping

Photo by Oscar Cruz
If you live in Houston, you live with the reality of unexpected flooding. This is from May 26, 2015.

At our WCS graduation last Friday evening, our valedictorian, the amazingly wonderful Rebecca Godard, gave a terrific commencement address. I particularly appreciated that she quoted one of my favorite poems, the classic If, by Rudyard Kipling, written to his son, John, in 1895. I once had Eric Law recite If from memory in chapel at FCS when he was an 8th grader and Eric quoted flawlessly. I now have Rebecca and Eric forever linked mentally even though the odds of their paths crossing are probably a billion to one.

But a different usage of the word if dominated my world today. You see, I had my day all planned. I was going to swim and lift in the morning and then swim and lift again in the afternoon. I was going to meet with Jean Adams in our business office and tie up the ends of our WCS Honduras/Haiti fund. Then I was going to meet with Ann Stone, our church accountant, and do some reimbursements and VISA planning for my trip to Vietnam and then to the bank to get a cashiers check for the Vietnamese Consulate. After that, I would go to the post office and buy a pre-paid envelope for the Consulate in which to mail my VISA. None of these things happened. If you watched the news today, you know why. Houston was hit with approximately ten inches of rain last night, causing widespread damage and the fourth largest US city to come to a standstill. And it came to me, it being James 4, verses 13-15:
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”
There's that word If again. I love the fact that James compares us to a mist while we were detoured by a downpour. The amazing this is that I got up this morning at 4:30 and began my morning routine, not thinking the weather would change my schedule, even though I had heard it rain all night. I prayed early this morning but I cannot recall asking the Lord for the blessing of His will which will prevail anyway. I'm not saying the day wasn't productive. I am rather proud, but not haughty, of ironing every pair of dress pants (save one which I wore Sunday) and every dress shirt I own. It needed doing and I wouldn't have done it otherwise and it took me hours. Since I couldn't swim, I took a 45 minute walk through an adjacent neighborhood and did some meditating- how I ended up in Houston, how I ended up in the mission fields, where I am going in life- and that was really good for me today. The funny thing is, there were no signs of flooding as I walked and a mile away was the scene of some of the worst of the worst torrents in Harris County.

Our ways are not always God's ways, are they? After worship on Sunday night, I was talking to the lovely and delightful Yanping Cheng, an accounting student at the University of Houston and a fellow member with me of the Chinese speaking part of our congregation. Yanping had been very excited about an internship this summer with a very prestigious accounting firm here in Houston. But due to a technicality with her student visa, she just found out she cannot intern with them until she begins her Masters' program in the fall. I would have been frustrated or maybe even a little angry at the setback. And yet I found my sister in Christ is bending her will to the will of her Father in heaven. She is already making new plans to go to camp with our church kids, and believe me, she will make an impact there. And it's not a matter of if  she will change lives; she will because she is following His will. And you can always count on that....if it stops raining!

Applicable quote of the day:
“I always prefer to believe the best of everybody; it saves so much trouble”
Rudyard Kipling

God bless,
Luke 18:1 

E-mail me at shawley@westburychristian.org