Friday, March 24, 2017

The Finishing Touch





Nothing great is finished quickly! This is from June 3, 2013.

It is finished! On Friday afternoon, I was witness, with two others, to the completion of perhaps the longest running project in the history of Westbury Christian School. At the beginning of the school year in 2005, we decided to paint a mural in my classroom depicting the Life Of Christ which was one of my classes. (In later years, we changed the name to Gospels but it's the same class.) The work was overseen by our art instructor extraordinaire, Karen Keese. The concept and the painting came from our Advanced Placement art students. The mural covered the whole front of the room and parts of the two adjacent walls with a chronological view of Jesus from birth to The Ascension. One neat aspect of the project is that the sections were headed by students whose families are from China, The Philippines, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Ghana; kind of a total world perspective! The project went sporadically as you can tell with long periods of inactivity and the original cast of artists graduating. Most of the mural was done by the summer of 2010 when our administration graciously funded the installing of new carpet and a superior lighting system along with a plaque commemorating the students involved along with some background information and a Bible verse, Ephesians 2:10. There were still some touch-ups  though, and Karen's daughter, Kellie, and my teacher's aide, Betsy Kelly, both terrific artists, did some fine tuning at various times.

Last week, Karen and I talked about finally finishing it and turning it over to our maintenance staff for the final detail, a sealer coat to protect the paint. Last Wednesday, Karen and Kellie came up to my room and worked on two scenes, the crowd in the feeding of the 5000 and Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. Then on Friday, they came to take all the painting supplies back to the Art Lab. Karen remarked that if we took five more years, she would still find things to fix. I asked Karen if she had painted her name into the painting, a tradition started with the original group. She had not so she subtly added it in the Gethsemane section. Then she saw something she didn't like in that scene and got her brush and changed it. Then she something about the feet of Jesus in another scene where he is surrounded by children and changed that, too. Kellie just sat down and sighed. Karen had proven her own point about the five years. Karen finally put her brush down one last time and the eight year odyssey was complete.

One verse which my students struggle with yearly is a quote by Jesus, in Matthew 5:48, from the Sermon on the Mount:
"Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

We know from the Scriptures that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God so we know that perfect in that context cannot mean sinless but has more of the connotation of completeness. Karen was right- she could have touched up that stretch of wall from here to eternity and still found imperfections which displeased her. Today, I read several posts from one of my FACEBOOK friends of  a personal bout with displeasure with facets of his life. You know, I bet that's never going to change. We all have to come to the realization that we are flawed and we will constantly be on the mend....but that God still loves us in spite of ourselves! As for me, I love the mural! I know I look at it differently than Karen does because I look at it every day. It's a masterpiece but it's only a masterpiece because of Karen and her students. And it now stands as is. It is complete.

Applicable quote of the day:
"The highest art is always the most religious, and the greatest artist is always a devout person."

Abraham Lincoln

God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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


Thursday, March 23, 2017

The List


One of the hard parts of life is when we don't get chosen. It's a part of life in every school. It can be a life lesson but it is still painful to watch. The following is from October 17, 2006.

It was posted outside the high school office this afternoon. Like many schools have done, Westbury Christian has made separate squads for football and basketball, due to the length of the seasons and the number of girls participating in numerous extracurriculars. Seventeen girls tried out for the basketball cheerleading squad; only eleven names were listed. There is no perfect way to handle the announcement because some will cry for joy and some will sob in pain. Our sponsors deal with the girls as gently as possible but feelings still get bruised. We have had a number of tryouts recently. This afternoon, the girls' soccer team had tryouts. Yesterday saw auditions for the school talent show. Several weeks back were readings for roles in the fall semester drama production. The selection process is a daily part of life in the school culture. In a small school such as WCS, students have great opportunities to be involved but it can come at the discretion of the coach, director, or sponsor. It's the least favorite part of coaching for me, deciding who gets a uniform and who has to wait and try again. I must make a confession: at times, I have delayed the decision, hoping the child will make the choice herself. In a sense, it's easier if the player comes to the conclusion but there is also a cowardly element for the coach. I am not proud of myself.

In my Bible classes this week, we have been talking about the calling by Jesus of the twelve apostles. The Savior went off by himself and prayed before he made his final cut. We aren't told how many were in the running or the reactions of either the elected or declined. Although none of the Gospels list criterion for being accepted into the group, Mark 3:14-15 says Jesus selected the one dozen disciples so they could be involved in two areas of ministry: preaching and driving out demons. Some good men were obviously left behind. Did they still listen and follow even though they weren't part of the inner circle? Did they leave and pursue a new 'messiah?' Did some return to the trailblazer of the wilderness, John the Baptist? Maybe the Lord had other purposes in mind for those who didn't make the varsity that day. I remind my middle school players that many girls who played for me didn't suit up for games their first year but they never gave up. Jesus prayed the night previous to the posting of his squad. I prayed as well before revealing my decision to my junior high girls. I hope it was easier for Jesus than it was for me.


Applicable quote of the day:
"Either love your players or get out of coaching."
Bobby Dodd/ Georgia Tech football coach



God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Inaccessible


I've made progress since I wrote this on June 9, 2013! I've just passed my three month anniversary of having a cell phone. If it were a marriage, I'd use the term celebrate my anniversary but so far, with this phone, there really has not been any cause for rejoicing and there is only one place to put the blame. You see, the thought was that when I had the modern phone, I would be more accessible. I was wrong. When I had my land line, I also had a little pre-paid cell that I very rarely used, typically only when I went out of town in case there were emergencies, which there never were. Usually, I didn't even know where it was. I did all my calling on my regular phone. I'd check messages on it everyday when I'd arrive home from work. It was never unplugged and always rang faithfully when someone wanted my attention. Many people knew the number and it had my father's voice on the answering machine. But, I thought I could get a better deal and it was time to join the modern era so I willingly made the switch.

You know, old habits die hard. I rarely turned my pre-paid cell on and I never took it with me and it's carried over. I'll go two or three days without even turning on my AT+T LG phone. Not many folks know my number which thankfully also appears to apply to the unwanted solicitations! Truthfully, I'm kind of scared of this phone. When I got it back in March, I had my teacher's aide, the awesome Megan Hill, transfer the contact list from the pre-paid to my new cell because I didn't know how.....and still don't. I'm shaky on checking for messages, anyway, so unless I've got it turned on and in my hearing distance when there is a call, there's a 50-50 chance I'll miss whoever is trying to get in touch. I'm not saying I'm hopeless- there are plenty of folks who have offered to help me navigate these uncharted waters- but it probably is going to be painfully slow.

To be honest, I don't want to be like so many people I see who are riveted to their phones to the point I might use the term enslaved. I see it with our students- when the 3:25 PM bell rings, 95% of the high school kids get out their cells and check them. On the other hand, I don't need to isolate myself from the world. Just think; what if God shut down and didn't listen to our prayers for days at a time? Look what David penned about his pleas to the Father:
As for me, I call to God,
    and the Lord saves me.
 Evening, morning and noon
    I cry out in distress,
    and he hears my voice. (Psalm 55:16-17)


What a blessing that the One in Heaven always is available. If He took a vacation, the universe would crumble and we would perish in its destruction. But if we are faithful, He promises to hear AND answer. And, I'm fairly certain He knew my number even before I did. (Well, that's a bad example because I have to look it up.) We sang an old standard tonight in our worship. The second verse still goes like this:
There's not an hour that He is not near us;
No, not one. No, not one.
No night so dark but His love can cheer us;
No, not one. No, not one.
His line is open as it always has been. Just in case you might call, I think I'll turn mine on!

Applicable quote of the day:
Steve Largent

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

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Lunch And Language

Language can be a tricky thing in our school and church! This is from February 17, 2013.
We ate lunch together as we usually do after our Chinese services. It was simple and delicious and Lynn, one of the ladies, sent home leftovers with me, some egg rolls and a potatoes and vegetable dish. (Lynn always tells me she is praying for me to find a wife so in the meantime, she makes sure I don't go hungry!) We have an interesting mix; about five Chinese couples along with their Americanized children, a few single Chinese adults, a number of Asian young men from Westbury Christian School, and several natives from the United States. It's a good group, one I've been blessed to be part of for almost ten years. They are tolerant of us westerners!

I noticed something today as we ate. I sat at a table with five adults from China. They were discussing what to have for lunch next Sunday as there is the traditional celebrating of the Moon Festival. To be honest, I had no stake in the topic as it's not an American holiday and I'll love the food, no matter what. But something struck me as they talked. Although all of them have Mandarin as their native language, they were speaking English and there was only one reason they could possibly be speaking English..... and that was me. Without saying a word about it, they were including me. I would have understood- bad pun- if they spoke Chinese. After all, it's a big tradition for them and I know they want it to be nice dinner, especially as they are far away from home. (Two of the past three summers saw me spend the 4th of July in Beijing and Moscow so I can relate.) But out of kindness for me, they allowed me to listen in....and I was honored. Paul wrote about being all things to all men and I can't think of a better example of that concept. He also wrote of the stronger brother/weaker brother and there is no doubt which role I took this morning. Language can be tricky- I had two of my students tell me they are never quite sure whether to speak English or Spanish to strangers as they risk being offensive either way. This morning, it would have been more comfortable and easier for my Chinese sisters and brothers to speak the tongue they spoke as children but that would have left me on the outside, even though I sat in their midst. They could have but we are a family. And families just don't do that to each other.

Applicable quote of the day:

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Cautious Life





This entry from March 12, 2013, is about a characteristic of my personality that may be a double edged sword.
We're in the middle of Spring Break- well, technically tomorrow is the middle- so I'm in errand mode. I'm getting up to swim at 6 AM each morning to make sure I stay on a schedule but I'm not above sneaking in a nap. Tomorrow, the apartment maintenance crew is coming to clean my carpets as they do for free every six months so I'm getting some much needed reorganization out of the way. This morning, that required an early morning trip to a Super Wal-Mart which is three or four miles from my residence. After ringing up several items (pool shoes, ironing board cover, bath mat, shower curtain, digital clock), I presented the nice lady at the cash register with a check. Sometimes the system requires a driver's license ID so I pulled mine out of my wallet.....but it wasn't there. The system didn't ask for it so I was OK temporarily. As I left, I began backtracking my movements and wondering where I possibly could have left it and I came up with a wide range of possibilities. The problem was that I had to make two more stops on my way home and both were on a busy boulevard next to the 610 loop. Fortunately, I made it home without incident where I found my license under a pile of papers on my desk. I spent yesterday calling dentists/credit cards/utilities with my new phone number and it kept requiring me to pull stuff out of my billfold. WHEW! I was already mentally planning an excursion to the DMV for a replacement license and if you live in Houston, you know that's kind of like Nightmare On Elm Street. OK, I've never seen Nightmare On Elm Street but I've heard rumors. And in all honesty, my times at the DMV have been pleasant so that's a bad comparison....but it would take time and I'm guessing more money would be involved.

It's been a very long time since I got a traffic ticket. In fact, I've only got two in my life, one in Kansas and one in Louisiana. The first was when I was in college and the second right after I graduated college so I'm the owner of a very good driving record. And yet, when I drove home those several miles today, I wasn't myself. I was cautious and nervous and deathly afraid to make a mistake, like a police siren would at any second and for any reason start bearing down on me. I was looking in the rear view and outside mirrors obsessively, making sure I did not violate any ordinances or run any yellow lights or fail to come to a complete stop. Of course, it's been decades since I even spoke to an officer while operating a motor vehicle but I was positive that today was the day I would screw up, the one day without my license. And what patrolman is going to believe that I JUST lost it, even though I had my proof of insurance and all of my tags/inspection stickers are up to date? I think by trying to be perfect this morning, I was much more a hazard to myself and the others on the road. This afternoon, with my license back in my pocket, I was much more relaxed cruising the streets of Houston. I'm pretty sure Houston breathed a sigh of relief as well.

You know, I think my life sometimes imitates my driving experience this morning. I mess up and then I become so afraid of sinning again, that I take each step in anticipation of a hidden trip wire attached to a grenade that's going to annihilate me. My guess is that the Lord never intended for us to feel like we're on thin ice all the time, although that was my dad's pet saying when I was being borderline stupid, which happened with some regularity. We need to be careful of our steps but the Scriptures teach we should live a life of boldness, too. It's hard to be bold when we are constantly looking over our shoulders which are sagging with the load of guilt we are hauling around. God is our license and our identification. Be thoughtful, be wise, BUT DRIVE ON! He's also the judge when we err but we are His children. It's good to be related to The Authority!

Applicable quote of the day, # 1:
If one is forever cautious, can one remain a human being?

Applicable quote of the day, # 2:

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

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Irish For The Day


I was in the middle of writing something else two days ago so these are my St. Patrick's Day thoughts from March 17, 2013. It's St. Patrick's Day! I saw plenty of folks at worship this morning sporting any number of green articles of clothing, even hats! There was nothing green in my outfit as I dressed up in a suit and although I have many ties, they don't tend to the shade one would wear on this holiday. When I was kid, I seem to recall not wearing green on March 17, I'm sure in hopes of certain girls pinching me. Of course, my bachelorhood is proof of the fallacy of that pre-teen boy logic....and I guarantee there's a lot more where that came from!

By my best estimated guess, I would think I'm 1/8th or 1/16th Irish but I'd have to have Uncle Jack and Uncle Monroe consult with each other to make sure. Did you know that 11.2% of the US population is of Irish descent according to the 2010 census and that the State of New York has the highest Irish percentage? Or did you know that Irish people in the US are older than the general population and that both parents of President Andrew Jackson were born in Ireland? All I know is that one of my favorite movie scenes ever is when Harrison Ford (Dr. Richard Kimball) escapes into the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Chicago! You can't beat The Fugitive!

I'm not sure why this calendar date is slotted as St. Patrick's Day but to me, it was interesting it fell on a Sunday this year. Sometimes, I think we approach our Christianity like we do this holiday; you know, pull it out when it's convenient. I don't go around mentioning my Irish heritage normally but it came up today. Maybe we wear a cross like we wear a swatch of green, sort of an identifying mark, just enough not to get pinched. Often I believe we pigeonhole our spiritual side to one day instead of a daily walk. We're believers on Easter or Christmas or Mother's Day but that leaves 362 days unaccounted for. Being a disciple can't simply be like St. Patrick's Day in America, a feel good nod to those good folks and ancestors who four and five generations ago fled poverty and scratched out an existence in places like New York and Boston and points west. I'm proud to be partly Irish but that produces a minimal difference in this world. I can only hope my Christian heritage is of more substantial impact to our culture at large.

Applicable quote of the day:
“If my last name were Bedient, I’d want to Irishize it and have you call me O’Bedient. Of course, just because you call me, doesn’t mean I’ll come.” 
Jarod Kintz

PS: I would have printed this entry in the predictable color but blogger doesn't supply a good Irish green for print!

God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Be Of Good Cheer


The NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament started Thursday! There is nothing like March Madness which includes the student fans, the band, and of course, the cheerleaders! The following is my favorite cheerleading story ever, complete with video. It is from March 9, 2006.


Did you see the video? A Southern Illinois University cheerleader was seriously injured in a fall from a top of a pyramid during the Missouri Valley Conference men's basketball tournament in St. Louis. Eighteen year old Kristi Yamaoka landed on her head from a height of fifteen feet, fracturing a vertebra in her neck, bruising a lung, and suffering a mild concussion. The arena went silent as the sophomore from Springfield, Illinois lay motionless, strapped to a gurney. But an amazing thing happened as the paramedics began wheeling Kristi off the floor to rush her to the hospital. The band started the SIU fight song and the injured Saluki cheerleader, whose arms were not restrained, began the clapping and arm motions along with her teammates. The crowd went nuts at the sight of this young lady exhibiting school spirit in an unconventional manner. Kristi, already making the talk show rounds, is expected to make a complete recovery and hopes to be ready for the April tryouts for next year's squad. Can you imagine the outcry if she doesn't make it? I, for one, will cancel my season tickets to all SIU sporting events! We can debate the wisdom of her doing a cheer with a broken neck but in her quotes, she said it was instinct and she was still part of the squad. The squad was cheering so she cheered. No one could ever doubt the loyalty of Kristi Yamaoka.

How do we handle adversity? Do we shut down or run away? Or do we do what we have been trained to do? I never remember my mom being sick as a kid. Dad did all right around the house but it would have been tough with Mom on the sidelines. Moms make the world run. I believe in many ways women are tougher than men and girls can handle more pain than boys. I admire those that keep going. One of our freshmen at Westbury Christian endured chemotherapy last year. She missed some days but kept up her academics. The Bible is replete with examples of perseverance. Elizabeth and Hannah kept praying for children, enduring the shame of being barren in a society where childlessness was pitied. Paul wrote epistles from prison. Stephen forgave his killers while they stoned him. After grief, disappointment, and misunderstanding at the death of their Savior and friend, the apostles turned the world upside down with news of the risen messiah. Like Kristi Yamaoka, they refused to let adversity detour their duty and sacred obligation. Maybe we all have one of those moments that define us. Kristi had hers on a national stage with cameras rolling. Bible characters had their moments recorded in spiritual history. Our moments might be known only to ourselves and those close to us. The anonymity of our lives does not diminish their relevance. Kristi Yamaoka was unknown one day, a celebrity the next. It probably won't happen to us but you can't tell. Television turns unknowns into media darlings. Sometimes, the new found stars are worth a second look and can teach us about ourselves and the human spirit. Solomon told us in Proverbs 16:18 that "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." In our world, sometimes fame comes after a fall!

Applicable quote of the day:
"The greater the loyalty of the group toward the group, the greater is the motivation of the group to achieve the goals of the group and the greater probability the group will achieve its goals." 

Rensis Likert

Applicable quote of the day, # 2:
"I think it's kind of crazy because I don't know how many times I've hit that stunt perfectly and no one cares until you hit the ground."
Kristi Yamaoka (Southern Illinois University cheerleader)


To watch the video, click or copy/paste the link below:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ki4Lw7Iy09c&list=PL07E09EB18D2B36CB

God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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