Thursday, February 14, 2019

V Day

There is no day at school quite like February 14! This is from February 11, 2012.

I've noticed my middle school students dealing with some stress the last week. That's not quite accurate. I should have said
my middle school students of the female persuasion. You know what is coming up in seventy-two hours. That's what's on many of the girls' minds. In class, I mentioned to one of the eighth grade ladies that IT was only six days away. She sort of sighed and told me, "I know." Richard asked, "Coach, what's six days away?" The girls were in disbelief of his ignorance but that's kind of the way it is. I don't remember if the girls I went to school with found this season to be pressure packed but many of them do now. Maybe schools have had some part in it. From kindergarten on, there were always parties and homemade cards and cookies and the like on February 14 so it's sort of institutionalized by society. It's a fun time for schools and the kids have fun but somewhere along the line, the anxiety sneaks in. Well, for one gender at least.

I'm in the process of visiting all our classes and kicking off our collection for orphanages in Honduras and Haiti. Yesterday, I spent time with our sixth grade girls' Bible class. Their teacher, Annette Turner, and I had discussed this Valentine's Day phenomenon so with her permission, I shared about three minutes of insight from  a male's perspective. I told them how my folks never kissed until they were engaged and until Dad had bought the ring. I told them that boys in their general age bracket will pretty much kiss anyone who lets them and it doesn't mean they like you. I told them I always knew if I really liked a girl if the kissing stuff was the last thing on my mind when it came to her because I didn't want to mess it up. And I told them the odds are extremely slim that they have yet met the (future) man they will marry. Annette told me they were extremely attentive and that they need to hear it from a guy and someone who is not their parent. I hope they were. This afternoon, as I stood in line at Wal-Mart, there by the checkout line was a display of COSMOPOLITAN magazines. The cover girl this week is Selena Gomez who every little girl in the US knows, either through her singing or her relationship to one J. Bieber. Do you know what the headline is next to Selena's picture? 
HOT AND NEW: Fifty Sex Tips

There were several middle school age girls in the various lines and I know they saw the same magazine. It isn't hard to see where kids are getting the idea that sexuality comes with no strings attached and few, if any, restraints. I told my eighth graders this week that God considers marriage sacred and that most of them want to get married in a church setting because they perceive it as being sanctioned by the Lord. And so when I was grading their tests several hours ago, one of those eighth grade girls ended her exam in the following manner: 
prayer request

please pray for everyone who doesn't have a Valentine, for God loves them more than any boy or girl.
Only one way to finish that thought.

Applicable quote of the day:
"Without Valentine's Day, February would be... well, January."
  Jim Gaffigan

God bless,
Luke 18:1
E-mail me at

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Crossing Of Paths

I constantly preach to my students that something may have happened today that will alter their lives and that of their yet to be born kids but they can't be aware of it yet. This is from February 9, 2011.

I gave Mallory a ride home from school this afternoon. Her grandmother sent a message asking if I could help out with the transportation and I was happy to oblige. Mallory lives nearby and the journey only lasted several minutes. I asked how her transition has been to Westbury Christian after her enrollment at semester from a big public high school. She told me she loves WCS and 'I'm not just saying that because you're one of the teachers!' After Mallory was safely dropped off at her door, I told Greg Glenn, our Executive Administrator who was riding with us, that this young lady is the product of generations of Christians. You see, I don't know Mallory well but there has never been a student at any of my schools whose family intersected mine and influenced me more than hers. The funny thing is, I doubt she really is aware of it.

You see, Mallory's mother grew up around the corner from me in a small town in Nebraska where we went to church and school together. Mallory's mom, Marsha, and her three sisters were part of my life since I can remember. Mallory's grandparents were my folks' dear, dear friends, even convincing them to move from Nebraska to Lubbock, Texas. Mallory's grandfather was one of my college professors and her grandmother was a second mother to me when I was just a squirrelly kid. Mallory's dad went with me and negotiated a new deal on my car, saving me from my own automobile ineptitude. Her second cousin was the first hero in my life and was my American Legion baseball coach. Her great uncle was the reason I became a teacher in general and a history teacher, specifically. When I began my teaching career at a tiny Christian school in south Georgia, I stayed for the first several weeks after my move with her great grandmother, one of the kindest people I have ever met. I could go on- like how I set one of her aunts up with one of my college basketball teammates- but you get the point. Relatives Mallory doesn't know have changed the direction of my life and helped guide me down my sometimes winding road to maturity.

It's funny. My parents had several options when they moved to Nebraska from Brooklyn when I was four years old. If they had decided on any of the other cities, I know the Lord would have worked through them still but their lives would have not crossed paths with Mallory's family...and neither would mine. Who would have given her a ride home on a blustery day in Houston with the skies threatening sleet? As we conversed this afternoon, Mallory and I reminisced about being fellow alumni of Nebraska Youth Camp, a summer get together for kids hosted by members of the churches of Christ in Kearney, Nebraska where not coincidentally, I was a fellow camper with Mallory's mom, dad, and her aunts on both sides. We tried to explain to Greg the allure of a little Bible camp out in the middle of nowhere, an encampment with few modern amenities but more than fifty years of history to a small group of ex-campers. I don't think Greg really got it but I guess you had to be there. That's the point- since early childhood, Mallory's family has been there for me. In a big, big world, we have traveled down the same roads more often than not. It's not a maybe, or a probably: it's an absolute. The Lord has plotted the road map that has turned into my life. I hope I still have significant miles to go.

Applicable quote of the day:
"The great gift of family life is to be intimately acquainted with people you might never even introduce yourself to, had life not done it for you."
Kendall Hailey

God bless,

Luke 18:1
E-mail me at

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Keep On Truckin'

Valentine's Day was my father's birthday. I think of him often and every day I realize more how much he shaped my life. This entry, from June of 2007, is about another father I encountered in an airport.

He fell in behind me at the boarding gate at Houston's Hobby Airport on Saturday. He confessed he had never been on a plane before and I assume he got in line just because the rest of us had. He asked if this line indicated where we would sit once inside. I asked to see his boarding pass and told him he was in the A group, meaning we would board first so he was in the right place. In his mid-twenties, he told me his story. The father of four, he had lived in Alvin, a suburb of Houston, all of his life. A friend of his had moved to St. Louis and had started a trucking business and promised him a position. With a little training and an upgrading of his trucking license, he was going to begin clearing $6,000 every month, build a new house, and send for his wife and kids by autumn. He was going on faith- he had never been to St. Louis before and asked me what it was like. I told him I enjoy the city when I visit my folks but they live in one of the outlying suburbs. Before we boarded, he spoke on his cell phone and he thanked whoever was on the other end for watching out for his family. When we arrived in St. Louis, I saw him with his friend at the baggage claim. He was thrilled- after all, he had survived his first airplane trip which was not without excitement. His new life was about to begin.

What would you do for your family? This man was doing something incredibly difficult, being separated from his wife and children, to make it better for them in the long run. It must be so painful to say good-bye, even temporarily, to the dearest on earth to you. How would you comfort your children, even knowing it was for their own good? There is Biblical precedent. In his last hours, Jesus told his apostles that he was going away. In John 14, the Savior explains that he is going to prepare a place for them. Two chapters later, in the same conversation, Jesus is more blunt with the disciples:
"It is for your own good that I am going away." In further detail, Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit coming to them and the blessing that will be in their lives. I am pretty sure those eleven men did not fully comprehend but they trusted the source of the words. Four small children and their momma in Houston are going to miss their truck driving daddy...but their grief will be short-lived and their lives will be enriched. When the time is right, he will send for them. Incredibly, Jesus made that same promise to his family!

Applicable quote of the day:
"Noble fathers have noble children."

God bless,
Luke 18:1
E-mail me at

Monday, February 11, 2019

All The Good Things

My team this year wrote their All The Good Things two weeks ago! This is from February 15,2015. 

You might wonder why there is a picture of a soldier here. It's not just any soldier. It is Mark Eklund who the following story is about. After you read, I'll come back in:

by Sister Helen P. Mrosla  
He was in the first third grade class I taught at Saint Mary's School in Morris, Minnesota. All 34 of my students were dear to me, but Mark Eklund was one in a million. [He was] very neat in appearance but had that happy-to-be-alive attitude that made even his occasional mischieviousness delightful.

Mark talked incessantly. I had to remind him again and again that talking without permission was not acceptable. What impressed me so much, though, was his sincere response every time I had to correct him for misbehaving: "Thank you for correcting me, Sister!" I didn't know what to make of it at first, but before long I became accustomed to hearing it many times a day.

One morning my patience was growing thin when Mark talked once too often, and then I made a novice teacher's mistake. I looked at him and said, "If you say one more word, I am going to tape your mouth shut!"

It wasn't ten seconds later when Chuck blurted out, "Mark is talking again." I hadn't asked any of the students to help me watch Mark, but since I had stated the punishment in front of the class, I had to act on it.

I remember the scene as if it had occurred this morning. I walked to my desk, very deliberately opened my drawer and took out a roll of masking tape. Without saying a word, I proceeded to Mark's desk, tore off two pieces of tape and made a big X with them over his mouth. I then returned to the front of the room. As I glanced at Mark to see how he was doing, he winked at me. That did it! I started laughing. The class cheered as I walked back to Mark's desk, removed the tape and shrugged my shoulders. His first words were, "Thank you for correcting me, Sister."

At the end of the year I was asked to teach junior high math. The years flew by, and before I knew it Mark was in my classroom again. He was more handsome than ever and just as polite. Since he had to listen carefully to my instructions in the "new math," he did not talk as much in ninth grade as he had in the third.

One Friday, things just didn't feel right. We had worked hard on a new concept all week, and I sensed that the students were frowning, frustrated with themselves — and edgy with one another. I had to stop this crankiness before it got out of hand. So I asked them to list the names of the other students in the room on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between each name. Then I told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates and write it down. It took the remainder of the class period to finish the assignment, and as the students left the room, each one handed me the papers. Charlie smiled. Mark said, "Thank you for teaching me, Sister. Have a good weekend."

That Saturday, I wrote down the name of each student on a separate sheet of paper, and I listed what everyone else had said about that individual. On Monday I gave each student his or her list. Before long, the entire class was smiling. "Really?" I heard whispered. "I never knew that meant anything to anyone!" "I didn't know others liked me so much!" No one ever mentioned those papers in class again. I never knew if they discussed them after class or with their parents, but it didn't matter. The exercise had accomplished its purpose. The students were happy with themselves and one another again.

That group of students moved on. Several years later, after I returned from vacation, my parents met me at the airport. As we were driving home, Mother asked me the usual questions about the trip — the weather, my experiences in general. There was a light lull in the conversation. Mother gave Dad a sideways glance and simply said, "Dad?"

My father cleared his throat as he usually did before something important. "The Eklunds called last night," he began.

"Really?" I said. "I haven't heard from them in years. I wonder how Mark is."

Dad responded quietly. "Mark was killed in Vietnam," he said. "The funeral is tomorrow, and his parents would like it if you could attend." To this day I can still point to the exact spot on I-494 where Dad told me about Mark.

I had never seen a serviceman in a military coffin before. Mark looked so handsome, so mature. All I could think at that moment was, Mark, I would give all the masking tape in the world if only you would talk to me. The church was packed with Mark's friends. Chuck's sister sang "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Why did it have to rain on the day of the funeral? It was difficult enough at the graveside. The pastor said the usual prayers, and the bugler played taps. One by one those who loved Mark took a last walk by the coffin and sprinkled it with holy water.

I was the last one to bless the coffin. As I stood there, one of the soldiers who had acted as pallbearer came up to me. "Were you Mark's math teacher?" he asked. I nodded as I continued to stare at the coffin. "Mark talked about you a lot," he said.

After the funeral, most of Mark's former classmates headed to Chuck's farmhouse for lunch. Mark's mother and father were there, obviously waiting for me. "We want to show you something," his father said, taking a wallet out of his pocket. "They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might recognize it."

Opening the billfold, he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been taped, folded and refolded many times. I knew without looking that the papers were the ones on which I had listed all the good things each of Mark's classmates had said about him.

"Thank you so much for doing that," Mark's mother said. "As you can see, Mark treasured it."

Mark's classmates started to gather around us.

Charlie smiled rather sheepishly and said, "I still have my list. It's in the top drawer of my desk at home."

Chuck's wife said, "Chuck asked me to put this in our wedding album."

"I have mine too," Marilyn said. "It's in my diary."

Then Vicki, another classmate, reached into her pocketbook, took out her wallet and showed her worn and frazzled list to the group. "I carry this with me at all times," Vicki said, without batting an eyelash. "I think we all saved our lists."

That's when I finally sat down and cried. I cried for Mark and for all his friends who would never see him again.

The story was written many years ago by Sister Mrosla for Protheus Magazine and gained fame when reprinted in Reader's Digest. Over the years, I have recreated it with my basketball teams, usually about twelve kids. Two weeks ago, I did it with my three Gospels classes, totaling more than seventy plus students. It's going to be a challenge. Each of the three classes has about twenty-four students writing a sentence or two about each of their peers and I type them out adding a compliment of my own. I have them do it anonymously; I want them to think any of the good things could be from any of their classmates or teacher. It's slow going. It takes me about twenty minutes per student so I've got my work cut out. One of the kids suggested we do it by e-mail so I could just copy and paste but I like reading their handwriting and the slow pace helps me digest what they write. You see, I'm learning about the kids from their perspective. Let me give you a sampling of what some of the teenagers have written about their peers. These are confidential and they haven't received their copies yet so names have been deleted:

 ______________ is literally the nicest and friendliest person ever. She makes everyone feel like they are her friend. She is such a positive and kind person. _____________ is just really inspiring!

I love how brave and ambitious ________ is! She is always setting goals for herself and is following through with them. She’s especially an awesome English student and willing to help others. She’s so courageous in participating in many sports, something many people cannot do.

_____________ is the definition of a gentleman- he is everything a gentleman should be! ___________ is a very intelligent guy and he is about his business, a go getter. He has a great personality and spirit about him!
_____________ always has encouraging words. If you come to her for advice, she is there to give it. She is also very caring. __________ has a good spirit and knows what she wants to be in life. She always works hard!
___________ is very hard working and has such a kind spirit about her. She dedicates herself to school work and everything she does. _________ is one who is quick to listen and slow to speak. I just love _________!
I like how ____________ is very knowledgeable and how he never seems to be in a bad mood. He has the cutest smile! He seems very squared away and is eager to make a difference in the world.
_____________  has an amazing undying spirit. Her thirst for knowledge is admirable and her passion to express her thoughts is encouraging.
_____________ is extremely friendly and funny. She gives good advice! She has helped me gain friends and helped me make new relationships. She’s also a very good athlete and an amazing warrior princess of God.

How much better of would we be if we talked about everybody like those kids spoke anonymously about each other? In Titus 3:1-2, Paul gives these words of advice to his young protege:
Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good,  to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.
That's a decent recipe for changing the world around us, one kind word at a time.

God bless,
Luke 18:1
E-mail me at

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Cry Me A River

My middle school team ended our game schedule two weeks ago but we have a practice period so we still meet every day. We still have our end of the year party and new t-shirts to look forward to! The following is why I love coaching middle school girls. It's from January 29, 2011.

Our basketball season ended on Tuesday. We won our last game, 33-24, over a home school team that wasn't bad. All the kids logged significant minutes as we played one of our better games of the 2010-2011 campaign. We concluded the year with a 12-10 record, much better than the 4-5 wins I had mentally predicted. Middle school schedules are both compact and scattered. One weekend, we played four games in twenty-four hours and then we went twenty-five days without playing at all. We made a bunch of memories along the way. Our assistant coach, Katy Shirley, was the object of much flirting from referees and even coaches, one of whom wanted to set her up with his son. We rejoiced each time a girl with limited playing time scored or sometimes, even came close to scoring. Late in the season, we went on a three game winning streak when our middle school principal, Casey Farris, played The Gap Band's You Dropped A Bomb On Me during timeouts. And as always happens, the end came suddenly. When the final horn for the season sounded, we lined up for the traditional hand shakes with our opponents. And as we always do, we talked for a few moments behind the bench. I mentioned uniform turn in- due Monday, laundered, and in a plastic bag with your name written on it. But right before we prayed, the oddest thing happened; the Lady Wildcats had an outbreak of tears. I've coached girls a long time but this caught me off guard. It wasn't only one or two girls and it wasn't only the eighth graders whose next game will be in high school. It was both a spontaneous and contagious outpouring. We made it through the AMEN and I sent them home.

What was interesting to me about the crying is that we aren't finished as a team. We have first period practice every day of the school year so we will still be together as a team seventy more times. The next morning, we met in my classroom, voting on awards and writing thank-you notes to folks who helped us. The subject turned to the post-game emotion. I asked what caused the waterworks. Taylor-post (read Monday's entry, In Name Only, to understand Taylor's quirky name) responded,

"Coach, you told us you loved us."
Jada chimed in with,
"And that it was an honor for you to coach us."
That, my friends, is coaching middle school girls' basketball in a nutshell. Even though I have often expressed those sentiments before, the timing was just right for a tearful reaction. I don't want you think it was all peaches and cream with this group. We had our issues- being on time, grades, silliness, etc.- but it comes down to the relationships you develop and the bonds I made with less than a dozen newly and near teens that made this a special year for me. It reinforced with me the power of words on hearts, especially when the hearts are wide open. In Jesus' Parable of the Talents, the four soils where the seed landed represent the types of hearts of those listening. The path, thorns, and rocky soil allowed no long term growth of the seed, the Word of God. But as for the good soil, it turned into a bumper crop of righteousness. That's how I see these girls- Good Soil. They'll make mistakes and have their hearts broken but they can do wonderful things in the Kingdom of Heaven. The Scriptures tell us the good soil produced 100-60-30 times what was sown; these girls will put up some amazing numbers of their own. On Tuesday, they watered the soil with the most precious type of irrigation ever devised, their own tears. That's why I'm so blessed that these kids call me Coach.

Applicable quote of the day:
“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief...and unspeakable love.”
Washington Irving

God bless,
Steve/Coach Hawley
Luke 18:1
E-mail me at

Saturday, February 09, 2019

In Name Only

I am constantly amazed that kids at school don't know my name or they think my name is simply Coach. This post from January 24, 2011, may explain why.

Taylor-post gave me a new tie last week. Actually, that's inaccurate on two counts. First, it was actually two ties but I already had one of them, a tan model with John 3:16 inscribed in brown lettering. The second inaccuracy is that her name is not actually Taylor-post; it's Taylor Scott. But, in the strange and sometimes befuddling world of middle school girls, I have two Taylors on my basketball team who also are in the same section of my Bible class. I know they get tired of being referred to by their entire name to differentiate so I call them by the basketball position. Taylor Scott plays on the inside, hence Taylor-post. Taylor Edens is a guard so we deemed her Taylor-perimeter. Just wanted to clear that up! Anyway, the other tie from Taylor-post is a colorful one with all the books of the Bible emblazoned on it. I love theme ties, especially the ones that I can work into class discussions and bonus questions. I wore my new tie on Thursday and received many compliments on my matched-ness, a rarity in my wardrobe selection.

This brings us to Margaret. If you have read my entries over the past year, you might remember Margaret as the WCS second grader who rates me every day in terms of what I'm wearing. (If you want to read the full story on the lovely Margaret, go in the archives to April 14, 2010 and the entry entitled, Approval Rating.) I ran across Margaret in the hall and after studying intently for a moment, she gave me a thumbs up. Margaret also told me she really liked my tie. I asked if she knew what the pattern was and she correctly answered that it was the books of the Bible. I then asked Margaret if she knows what my favorite Bible book is. She didn't and I told her it is the Gospel of Luke. I asked her why she thought Luke was my favorite and this was her answer:"Because it's your name!"I admit, I had to stifle a laugh. I quickly told Margaret the startling news that my parents named me Steve, not Luke. But as I thought about it, her response made more sense. Now, I know Margaret about as well as a high school teacher knows an eight year old. But we run in the same school circles in that her mom teaches with me and her sister is an eighth grader, along with the aforementioned Taylors. Margaret, though, like all these children, calls me Coach Hawley. Why would they know what my birth certificate says? Maybe it's logical that Margaret thought my name is Luke; after all, it's my favorite Bible book and she knows I am a Bible teacher. Maybe I look like a Luke to her. Yesterday, a guy I've known since I was a kid in Nebraska called me Mike so Margaret is not alone. I just know that Jesus tells us if we belong to Him, our names are written in the Book of Life. I'm just starting to wonder if I'm registered under Steve or Luke. Jesus told us that certain things have been revealed to little children- I guess I'll just have to ask Margaret.

Applicable quote of the day:
"One-way first-name calling always means inequality - witness servants, children, and dogs.”
Marjorie Karmel

God bless,
Luke 18:1
me at

Friday, February 08, 2019

Red Sky At Morning

We note in class each year that Jesus told His listeners  they could interpret the weather but they didn't know what was going on in the world. This is from February 2, 2011.

It's really cold in Houston. Not Fairbanks, Alaska cold but for here, it's an Arctic blast. The state of Texas had rolling blackouts this morning in an attempt to preserve the power grids. Our kids clapped the three times it went dark, making an average dreary school day into an memorable one. There are already postponements and cancellations for the rest of the week as Houstonians come to grips with the very real possibility of a rare ice/sleet/snow storm to complement the dangerously low thermometer readings. This was commonplace for me as a kid in Nebraska, where winter weather was a built-in part of the psychological makeup of the Cornhusker State's one million or so inhabitants. It should be a fascinating three or four days on the Gulf Coast. I've found myself turning to the Houston Chronicle website today to find the latest forecast, something I rarely do. On the television, the various stations' weathermen (my bad, METEOROLOGISTS!) are semi-rockstars as they let the natives know what to expect from Mother Nature, especially during hurricane season. They are dominating the airwaves as we speak.Weather forecasting is so much more advanced scientifically than when I was a kid, now complete with color graphics and computer simulations and my favorite, DOPPLER RADAR. I'm sure these atmospheric analysts are well compensated for good reason. They become part of your trusted inner circle when making decisions, sometimes life and death decisions, that concern your family. We have become experts at predicting the coming blizzards and thunderstorms but predicting the weather is nothing new. One time, the religious leaders demanded a sign from Jesus. Look at what the Savior said in response in Matthew 16:
“When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times."

I think those words of the Lord sound frighteningly current. Has there ever been a time like ours when the world blurs almost every line between good and evil? It seems that so many celebrities from all different fame factories are intent on breaking down every prohibition known to civilization and calling it enlightenment. Jesus had a word for sin: darkness. Aren't we as believers supposed to be shining lights to show the way to the Christ? I mentioned that in their immaturity, our kids cheered when the lights went out. It was exciting to them, an adventure. They don't realize the danger of the loss of power to the poor, to the elderly, to the very young. I'm afraid all of us, similarly, see the darkness as alluring but we know it's temporary and believe we can handle a little bit of it and we won't get sucked in. But, many of us do and then it becomes a rescue mission. It's going to be very cold tonight in most of the United States.... and very dark. Someones going to need your light and mine to stay warm and find their way back from the darkness, both literally and figuratively. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught His followers that, "You are the light of the world." That is one forecast we won't find that on the Weather Channel.

Applicable quote of the Day:
"The trouble with weather forecasting is that it's right too often for us to ignore it and wrong too often for us to rely on it."
Patrick Young

God bless,
Luke 18:1
E-mail me at