Tuesday, April 24, 2018


When I penned the following entry, on May 30, 2007, both of my parents were still alive. With their passings, I have found out, like many of you, what it is like to lose a loved one. I know much better what it means than when this was written.

I was there the first time and so was Ben. In 1996, I was the assistant coach and Ben Johnson a freshman substitute during Friendship Christian School's initial trip to the Tennessee high school baseball state tournament. We thought we had a great shot at winning the Single A crown but we went out in two games. Last Friday, Friendship was once again in the state tourney but Ben and I were finishing up the year as teachers/coaches at Westbury Christian School in Houston. Ben was getting updates via cell phone as the Commanders took on Jackson Christian School in the championship game on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. Ironically, the same schools with the same two coaches and many of the same young men battled it out for the state football crown back in December. Last fall, Jackson Christian prevailed by a 19-13 margin. On the diamond, the tables were turned as Friendship took the title, 13-3. My only real connection remaining with the program is Coach John McNeal, my six year coaching partner. But even if I wasn't particularly emotionally involved, I was thrilled on another level. Jon Miller is why.

He was only a third grader when I moved to Texas so I don't know if Jon would remember me. His parents and I worshipped together and I coached with and against his dad, Ricky. Kids grow significantly in almost a decade. Last December, Jon Miller was the quarterback for the Friendship football team and led them to a perfect 14-0 mark heading into the title game, also played on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University. On that day, Jon tied a state record he would like to forget by throwing six interceptions in the six point defeat. Even in high school, quarterbacks tend to be lightning rods for credit and blame so I know Jon took it very hard. Fairy tales aren't supposed to end that way. What a sense of redemption for Jon, who played left field defensively, to lead his team to the pinnacle in May by slamming four home runs in the tournament along with a slew of runs batted in. Can one triumph trump a heartache? Does one cancel out the other? I guess Jon could answer that better than most but at least it put an ice pack on the sting.

Mitch Albom has a new book out although I haven't read it. The author of Tuesdays With Morrie has published For One More Day, already scheduled to be a made-for-television movie later in the year. The gist of the novel is this: 

what would you do if you could spend twenty-four additional hours with a loved one who had died? 

I am sure the point is to not wait until it's too late to make peace and share our love. I got a jolt today when reading the obituaries in my hometown newspaper revealed the passing of the fathers of two childhood friends. The mortality of your friends' parents implies the mortality of your own folks. Jon Miller was granted a rare reprieve, to at least partially rectify a painful segment of his young life. In Acts 20, Paul calls together the elders from Ephesus to tell them good-bye, knowing he will see them no more this side of eternity. We don't have that luxury Paul was afforded or the Mitch Albom fantasy to have a do-over once the heart stops beating. The phone is available. If you still can, call your folks. Someone's waiting for you.

Applicable quote of the day:
"Love each other or die."
Mitch Albom

God bless,
Luke 18:1

E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com

Monday, April 23, 2018

Mom And Dad And The ATM Card

I am no financial wizard as you will see in this devotional from June 17, 2014.

This may seem archaic to you but I applied for an ATM card this past weekend. It was really on the advice of two wonderful people who don't know each other but who work together through me, Ann Stone and Mike Tune. Ann is our church accountant and handles the finances for my mission trips to Vietnam. Mike is the son of Tom Tune, the missionary who started the church I work with in Can Tho. Mike has taken over the reins of his father's vision and coordinates my trips in terms of what I need to be doing in Vietnam.The issue came up because my friends and biological family and church family have donated in excess of my expenses for my trip so I'll be taking some funds to leave and distribute with the brothers and sisters for use as they see fit. Ann and Mike expressed concern with my carrying more than a nominal amount of traveling cash and while not exactly insisting, strongly urged me to get an ATM card from my Chase Bank branch. Last Saturday, I did just that and am expecting delivery in a few days. Chris, my personal banker according to his business card, walked me through the process and explained fees from using overseas ATM machines. He was non-plussed when I told him I intended to deactivate the card when I returned in early August. Chris suggested a few options for future considerations- we parted with me knowing more than when I came in.

I would guess my views and habits on money come consciously and subconsciously from my folks. We did not have a great deal and they were careful with what we did have. But they taught us the Lord came first, even with money. When I was very small, our allowance was 15 cents per week with 1/3 saved, 1/3 spendable, and 1/3 in the collection plate. We would skip meals and give the money saved to missionaries. I was not fond of that but it stuck with me. Mom and Dad went through a stage where they gave us a little spiral notebook and had us write down every penny we spent. After fourth grade, no more allowance and if I wanted money, I had to earn it. Thus began a stream of get it yourself employment opportunities; raking leaves, shoveling snow, mowing grass, detassling corn, paper routes, working on a farm, carrying groceries/running the register at the Jack & Jill Supermarket, waxing floors at York College. I learned to value of currency. When I wrecked our Karmann-Ghia, I paid for the repairs. When I wanted to go to basketball camp at the University of Nebraska, the money came from my checking account. So when I go to college and beyond, I knew the value of a dollar and how to repeat my folks' strategy- STAY OUT OF DEBT.

That brings me back to the ATM card. I have never wanted easy access to my money so I write checks and keep a limited amount of cash in my wallet. The only thing on my credit card is my phone/Internet bill and my once a year plane ticket to Vietnam. I'm not belittling anyone else- I know it would be different with a wife and kids- but it works for me. My parents never gave me an elaborate gift- they could not have if they had wanted to. And yet they did. They taught me contentment with what I had. I have struggles but envy has never been a big issue. I was never jealous of classmates getting new cars or even students getting new cars- I just considered them blessed. But it hit hit me the other day as I was driving- they did give me an elaborate material gift. After their passings and the dividing of the will, I went to Russell and Smith Honda in Houston and paid for a brand new Honda Fit in cash with the money my mom and dad had worked for as teachers and as a preacher and as a marriage counselor, then saved and judiciously invested. The concept of inheritance is common throughout the Scriptures, both in the materialistic way but more importantly, as it deals with eternal life. Jesus preached the laying up of treasures in heaven; if you knew my parents, you know they did. And in doing so, they also provided for their earthly offspring. In doing so, they gave me the best of both worlds. 

Applicable quote of the day:
Folks can't carry around money in their pocket. They've got to go to an ATM machine, and they've got to pay a few dollars to get their own dollars out of the machine. Who ever thought you'd pay cash to get cash? That's where we've gotten to.

God bless,
Luke 18:1

E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Wonderful World

My favorite camp word of the day is ATTITUDE which has many components but part of it has to do with being a good teammate. This post is about a famous player and his favorite teammate. It is from June 13, 2013.

Last week, I ran Bill Walton's tribute to John Wooden, his basketball coach at UCLA, a man many consider the greatest ever. This afternoon, I listened to a Sports Illustrated interview with Walton as he shared some thoughts on basketball and his own Hall Of Fame career. He made the point that he considered Larry Bird the best player he ever played with and Kareem Abdul Jabbar the best player he ever competed against. But what really impressed me was his statement that the best teammate he ever had was Maurice Lucas, who played with Walton on the Portland Trailblazers in the mid to late 1970's. I remember Lucas as a very good player but more of an enforcer type than someone who puts others in front of himself for the good of the group. It helps having the perspective of someone on the inside.

As I've mentioned, last week was the first of three weeks of basketball camp at Westbury Christian School with morning and afternoon sessions. As always, I'm assigned to coach girls. In the morning, our team was named the Cowgirls and the afternoon squad was the Thunder. In my career, I've coached boys in baseball and girls in basketball. This is a generalized statement that some of you will disagree with but in my experience, girls make better teammates than boys. It might be simply that girls tend to be more mature than boys. Or, it could be that girls cooperate more than compete, one reason some coaches become frustrated working with girls. My afternoon group, the Thunder, was one of the best camp teams I've had. They were outnumbered, only six girls in a camp of fifty, but they were a joy.
The six are about to enter sixth, seventh, or eighth grades. They encouraged each other with a minimum of silliness. They took coaching as advice to make them better, not as criticism meant to demean. We actually won a camp-wide shooting contest, team versus team. In one of the last rounds, it was the first team to three baskets in shots from the free throw line. We made our first three attempts and sat down, the signal for finishing. The fourth shooter was Brittany who will be a
WCS sixth grader this August. Miss Brittany made one of the best statements I've ever heard a youngster make:''I didn't get to shoot but it doesn't matter because we won.''

Not everybody is unselfish enough to be a good teammate and not everyone wants to be. But in that short sentence, Brittany told me everything I need to know about her athletically. If she can put the other girls ahead of herself in a thrown together for five days camp team, I have no worries she will put others before herself in things that really matter. It's a foreshadowing.

What if we all lived like that? What if employers put their employees before themselves? Or spouses put their mates first? Or coaches and teachers put their players and students first? Or politicians put their country and their fellow citizens first? Or Christians actually did as we are commanded and put the whole world first? To quote Sam Cooke-Lou Adler-Herb Alpert, 'What a wonderful world this would be!' Who do you think we should start with?

Applicable quote of the day:
"In short, he was a very, very complete player and a joy to coach,
a totally dedicated team player whose only concern was winning.”

Dr. Jack Ramsey, NBA coach, assessing Bill Walton

PS: In his interview, Bill Walton asked for prayers for his old teammate, Maurice Lucas, who is battling cancer. That's a good place to start.

To hear Sam Cooke sing Wonderful World which he co-wrote with Adler and Alpert, PLEASE Click the link below:

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

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Junkyard Formerly Known As My Desk

Of course, it reverted! This is from July 1, 2014.

School is out and summer is in full swing. With graduation coming five weeks ago, the WCS Class of 2014 has entered the real world, well-equipped but facing a multitude of challenges just as their peers across the US will encounter. As I have mentioned in several entries, after a week off, I survived three weeks of basketball camp. I could go through the sequence blindfolded. That comes, like any skill, with successful repetitions. Sounds like coach-speak! School ended as it always does, with commencement leading into the Memorial Day weekend. I pledged myself to a big project to lead into my vacation and I pulled it off but not without a significant commitment of time.

At the end of every Spring semester. all teachers have a check list to comply with before we can leave. Finals graded and recorded; list of room repairs; where to send paycheck in summer if not on automatic deposit; inventories taken and walls cleared. It isn't too difficult- the biggest thing for me is grading the finals. I would guess most schools have a similar system to close down for the summer. I'm pretty sure I got my list signed this May earlier than I ever have. But that doesn't mean I was finished.

I'm trying to rearrange my classroom to make the mural of the life of Jesus painted by our AP art students totally visible- a small portion is obstructed by my desk. To make that feasible, I need to get rid of a filing cabinet and condense my desk and remaining cabinets, moving them to the other side of the room. I started on the Saturday morning after graduation and worked through Memorial Day. I would estimate I spent eight to nine hours in Room 258 sorting through stuff and when I was finished, I had eliminated the need for a very big filing cabinet with plenty of free space remaining. You see, what I've done over the years is simply throw everything that's out into drawers or shelves so I wouldn't have to deal with them. It's been compounded by the fact that for six of the last seven years, I returned to Houston either a day before the beginning of inservice or after it's already started so I'm already behind. Making matters worse, I fall into the category of those teachers who are loathe to discard anything. Let me give you an example. Our 8th grade Bible classes use a 12 episode series made by Focus on the Family called McGee And Me. I inherited the VHS set when I came in 1998 but I haven't used a VCR in years. So I had a twelve tape set of something we will never use again and I already have the DVD version of McGee with duplicates of most episodes...and I'm not quite sure how that happened. I asked permission before I tossed them and I found other numerous VHS sets we have already replaced also sitting there; dumpster as well. Amazing how much room that cleared out. I found extra copies of school annuals that I'm not sure I've ever looked at and old basketball uniforms we haven't worn in years. I found thousands of paper clips and I'm ashamed to say I asked for more from the office this year because I was unaware of their existence. I discovered about five pair of scissors, four staplers, numerous stacks of detentions (haven't given any in several years), old tests, cards from little kids from the death of my father in 2008, and Sarah White's 8th grade picture. To put it in perspective, I preached Sarah's wedding after she had graduated from college..... four years ago.

So, you can see my philosophy as I have carefully developed it. Shove it in a drawer, stick it on a shelf, cover it up with other junk, deal with it later. Except I forgot about most of it and it took years from me to deal with it. It's the academic equivalent of a toothache we ignore and hope it resolves itself but we know it only gets worse and becomes a bigger issue. It's the same thing in our spiritual lives; it might be habits or hobbies, relationships or rituals. We all know in our heart of hearts what drags us down, what trips us up, what minefields litter our path that Jesus said was narrow. We have choices. Hopefully, we won't embrace these traps but some folks give up trying and just go along for the ride. We're more likely to deal with them like I handle my classroom; shove whatever it is into a drawer and shut it and hope it goes away...which it never does. The Scripture encourages a different strategy:
Hebrews 12: 1 says this: 
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us (NET)
1 Peter 2:1, in the same vein, says this:
So get rid of all evil and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. (NET)
You know, the stuff in my cabinets wasn't bad, it just was in the way. It was taking space that would make my room a better teaching environment, a better place to teach about Jesus to kids from many countries. I needed to get rid of it, and I did, finally. Now, I'll find out if really can teach. Maybe my students will learn something this year!

Applicable quote of the day:
If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, what is the significance of a clean desk?

God bless,
Luke 18:1

E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com

Friday, April 20, 2018

Game Of Throws

Tonight, I talk about one of my favorite practice games. It's from April 1, 2014.

In our Spring first period basketball practices, we do a variety of competitions every day. One thing that I've found over the years is that the girls in my program tend not to be the greatest competitors- they don't really know how to look for ways to win. I design what we do each morning based on offensive skills- it's much easier and less time consuming at this age to develop good defensive players, especially if the kids are good athletes. One thing we do each month after our schedule of games is completed is a free throw ladder. Each girl shoots sets of ten free throws until they accumulate 100 attempts and we post the percentages on the locker room door in descending order. I give a prize- an extra Capri Sun- each month to the player with the  most % improvement. We began the April ladder yesterday, a day early, because of some conflict issues coming up- Picture day, academic contests, etc. I threw out another incentive; an extra Capri Sun day for all if we have five players who improve over March. (In case you are a new reader, we share Capri Suns at the end of practice every Friday morning.) Well, we finished today and had an average of 37.1% for the twelve kids. Three players- Natalia, Jenna, Madison, all 8th graders- shot 50% or better and we went down to a low of 19%. If you know basketball, you can see we have unlimited potential for improvement. That's the value of the off season. 

After shooting and charting for the first half of the period on Monday, I divided the kids up into three teams of four and played what we call the Free Throw Game. It's four on four with one team out. If you score, you stay. If you get scored on, you're out and the team underneath the basket comes in. Everyone time the ball changes hands within a possession, it has to come to me at the top of the key where I act as a passer and referee. Here's the catch in keeping score; if your team scores a basket, you go to the free throw line and each team member in turn shoots a free throw in a set order until somebody misses. We have only played twice but it's our current favorite thing to do in practice.

Later in my 8th grade Bible class which included three of my players, we discussed what I think is an interesting phenomenon. When we shoot and chart ourselves with only being accountable to the individual, we shoot, as I mentioned, at a 37% clip. And yet when we play the Free Throw Game where each girl on a team shoots an equal number of shots, our percentage goes up to approximately 65%. I ventured, and the kids agreed, that we shoot better when the welfare of others, our three teammates in this instance, is riding on our individual success. We do most of our pre-season conditioning running relays which is an idea I picked up from an article that said American swimmers go faster in relays than individual races due to the reliance factor. You push yourself for your teammates. In that light, it only makes sense why the Lord put us in families biologically and in the church spiritually- we need to know others depend on us. Today, in that same class, we talked about the Lord's Prayer and noted there are no first person singular pronouns anywhere to be found in its petition to God:
Give us this day our daily bread and Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. 

No I, me, or my as the Savior taught His disciples, and us by inference, how to talk to the Father. We were not created to be lone wolves either socially or in matters of righteousness. And maybe that's why the Lord placed us on basketball teams, too.

Applicable quote of the day:
There are really only two plays: Romeo And Juliet and put the ball in the basket.

 Abe Lemons

God bless,
Luke 18:1

E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Recommendations

Yesterday, I talked to the students in my Gospels' classes about college letters of recommendation. Although they are still only juniors, they need to be thinking seriously about who will be the one/ones to brag on them to the admissions offices of institutions of higher learning across the nation. We talked about the importance of having someone in their corner during this  very critical juncture of their lives; someone who will go to bat for them in an arena that is tremendously competitive. So, for their bonus question on the memory verse of the day, 1 Peter 2:9, they wrote five positive statements about themselves they would want me to include should I write their letter of recommendation for admission into the incoming freshman class of __________ College/University starting in the fall of 2019. Here is one from each, anonymous and used by permission:

-I am not the smartest person but I am a fast learner!
-I came to the US knowing no English but I learned and I am still getting better!
-I enjoy diagnosing and helping people with their social problems.
-I know I'm not the best writer but I work on it with my tutor almost every weekend!

-I try to be as modest and humble as I can be!
-Traveling and the people around me have opened my eyes to be accepting
 and open-minded!
-I am adaptable and coachable in any sport I play.
-I used to be very shy but now I am meeting new people!
-I like to know the why and not just the what.
-I'm not a great writer BUT I am observant!
-I like to think and act in a logical way.
-I want to make others feel good about themselves.

-I am willing to take and utilize my opportunities to the fullest.
-I don't like to do anything half-way.
-I will always protect the people around me.
-I excel in non-confrontational tactics.
-If silence were golden, I would be really rich!
-I like to study different cultures and use what I learn.
-I like cooperation because that's how society works.
-I love to learn new things everyday, whether academic or life issues.
-I am good at settling issues between other people.
-I am a hard worker who bases my schedule around school and others.
-I don't let bad days affect my work ethic.
-I have family all over the world and I am good at resolving the problems that can come from that.
-I have learned from sports to work with teammates I don't get along with.
-I am an explorer, always curious to learn about the mechanical and natural world.
-I love doing community service.
-No one expects me to succeed BUT I KNOW I WILL!
-I take on leadership positions and assume a mothering/big sister role.
-I look at the bright side of things, even when I want to cry.
-I am least likely to give up.
-I am a leader who doesn't blindly follow others.
-I am still finding myself but I encourage and support others!
-I know how to forgive.
-I put a lot of effort into every assignment!
-I've dealt with pain my whole life so nothing fazes me.
-I am not afraid to take risks and my family is central to my life.
-I have the tendency to be goofy and energetic but I know when to stop.
-I am willing and open to learn from my mistakes.
-I always help my fellow students with their math!
-I am an avid reader who can read 2-3 books per week.
-I am honest and willing to challenge myself.
-I am a leader although you might think I'm a follower!
-I will never turn my back on a friend or family member.
-I am not good at sports but I always try  my best.
-It is really hard to make me quit because I am persistent.
-I am always energetic and I love to make new friends.
-I am respectful of myself and others.
-I am open minded and always willing to try new experiences.
-I work every day to make my parents proud of me.

During my sixth period class, I asked Euphe if she thought anyone would know her statements were hers if I typed them anonymously and posted them on the wall. She didn't think so and I would agree. We teach kids, and rightly so, that humility is a virtue. Jesus said if we exalt ourselves we will be humbled and that's not something we relish. But these students know their strengths and shared them with me. I told them it's an honor to be asked to be the teacher who puts these thoughts to paper on their behalf. I also told them I would like a t-shirt from the school they choose and which chooses them if I write their recommendation. So, in parting, I leave these rising seniors with two letters to remember me by: XL.

Applicable quote of the day:
“The primary purpose of going to college isn't to get a great job. The primary purpose of college is to build a strong mind, which leads to greater self-awareness, capability, fulfillment, and service opportunities, which, incidentally, should lead to a better job.” 
Sean Covey

God bless,
Luke 18:1

E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Teach Your Children

                           (Mom and Dad teaching Dave, on the right, and me.)

One day several years ago in the Fall, all my classes did a writing assignment about marriage. Of course, the girls did a better job overall as they have the advantage of having thought about it. At three o'clock that day, a number of my 8th grade boys were dismissed from my class to go to a football game. In the one minute it took them to get their stuff and leave, the girls just looked at them and shook their heads. We had talked about why girls sometimes like older boys and I told them I think it is a maturity issue. As the door closed behind the last gridiron star, I just looked at the females and said, "See what I mean?" They got it. The following is from October 30, 2006.

I told two young men to stay after class today. With about ten minutes remaining in the period, they began acting squirrelly so I said we would address the issue when the bell rang. At once, they became very subdued. When their classmates exited, we had a very brief meeting. I made the point that they should be leaders among their peers instead of behaving like two year olds. Additionally, I mentioned that I would really dislike contacting their folks but I was more than happy to do so. Asking if they understood, I received, "Yes, sir" in almost perfect unison. That was it. They are gifted kids from wonderful families. For a brief moment or two, they acted like thirteen year olds. Did I mention they are thirteen? Both make good grades and are active in a number of school activities. There won't have to be a call home. Their parents have insured high standards of behavior and all I had to do was a little bit of reinforcing. That makes my job so much easier.

Right after school, I had an unplanned get together in the hallway with one of my students and her mother. Mom let the child know that if school work did not get turned in, there would be no extracurriculars in the immediate future. My folks only had to do that once with me. I was a sophomore and my report card showed a mid-80's grade in World History. It was good enough to play according to school standards but not sufficient for my folks. As I recall, I had two weeks to bring it up or there would be no more basketball. Since I knew I was only about six years away from signing with the Boston Celtics, this would have dealt a serious blow to my hoops career. The grade spiked upward immediately. Coincidentally, it did have an impact on my career. But instead of earning a spot in the NBA, I earned a Masters degree in education with an emphasis in social science, i.e. history. My folks insisted that I do what I was capable of doing, academically as well as socially. There are still many, many parents who demand accountability. There is a term often used in education:
in loco parentis or in place of the parents. In school settings, I take on some of the responsibilities for moms and dads. I wish there were a similar term for parents in relation to the Lord. Kids are a gift from God, to be taught and cared for while on earth. Many do a great job. I was reminded today.

Applicable quote of the day:
"Children today are tyrants. They contradict their parents, gobble their food, and tyrannize their teachers."
Socrates (470 B.C. - 390 B.C.)

God bless,

Luke 18:1

E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com