Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Name On The Line


I like to interact with my students during class discussions and while they are reading for their quizzes. Vageli is back in my class as a junior after taking me for 8th grade Bible. He's an interesting young man- his dad's from Greece and his mom is from El Salvador. Vageli recently started playing football after focusing on basketball and will be a big asset to our Wildcat squad this upcoming season. I taught his brother Pete a decade ago. In fact, I still reference an in-class conversation with Pete when we were speaking of honesty in the workplace. I asked him how many dishonest employees it would take to ruin their family business. Without hesitation, Pete replied, "One." I quote him every year.

In the previous paragraph, I mentioned Pete and Vageli's family owning a business. It's a well regarded Mexican restaurant with four Houston locations. In class last Thursday, and I can't really recall what topic we were on, I asked Vageli, "What should I order if I come to your restaurant?" Without hesitation, Vageli replied, "Get the fajitas, Coach." I told him I would if I did but I have to confess, I have never dined there. The next morning before school, Vageli walks into my room and hands me an envelope with a very nice surprise tucked away- a $25 gift card from their cantina! Sure enough, on the card, it announced they were famous for fajitas. That settles it- FAJITAS! Now I just have to settle on the date. No doubt, I will make sure I am extremely hungry that night! But that wasn't quite the end of our interaction. As Vageli was leaving, I joked that I had to hurry up because the certificate stated the expiration date is 12/31/16. Without hesitation, Vageli told me, "Don't worry, Coach, if you're late. When they see my name on there, it will be accepted." With that assurance, Vageli walked out to begin his seventh day of the school year.

I really liked what Vageli said about the gift card and who it came from. He did not say it arrogantly. He simply was confident in his relationship with the restaurant because of who he is. He has standing because of his parents. Whoever would be running the cash register if I was overdue, which I promise I WILL NOT BE, would recognize the source of the gift card and act accordingly. They know Vageli because they know his parents and that matters. The same holds true in our relationship to God. I like what J.I. Packer said:
"If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God's child and having God as his father."

We can have confidence because we know who we belong to, who we came from, and whose we are. In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus did not command us to beg our Father for our daily bread. He wants us to ask confidently because He is our Father. We know we matter always. We matter, even if  what matters is only a signature on a piece of paper. The proof is in the fajitas.

Applicable quote of the day:
"Dignity is not negotiable. Dignity is the honor of the family."

Vartan Gregorian

God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Randy Travis In All Of Us

I'm not a country music fan but I do like Randy Travis. This is from September 12, 2012.

I was on my way home from worship services this morning and as usual, I was flipping through my seven radio selections: three classic rock/pop, two sports talk, one religious, and one country music station. My tolerance is about five seconds and switch, both channels and genres. As I hit the button for 97.1 Country, I heard On The Other Hand over the airways, sounding just like it would in any honky tonk on any Saturday night. It's a pretty typical song, potential cheating along with a healthy dose of guilt and angst tossed in for good measure. The song revolves around reasons for adultery on one hand and on the other, of course, is a wedding ring. It's not one of my favorite country songs, of which there are very few, and normally I would have continued station hopping. But today,  for me, it was about the singer, not the song. Is it just me or is Randy Travis in the news every other day and it's not good? It just came over the wires that his pickup truck was found abandoned in a field near Dallas. On Thursday, he was arrested for an altercation in a church parking lot. On August 7th, he was arrested for public drunkenness and threatening an officer. In February, he was charged with DWI. Needless to say, it hasn't been a terrific year for the star who sang one of the greatest songs in history, Forever And Ever, Amen. (To read my blog on the song, go to http://stevehawley.blogspot.com/2010/10/randy-travis-forever-and-ever-amen.html) Maybe he can turn it around during the rest of the year- it's obvious something is very wrong in his life right now.

Do you know what bothered me the most this week about the Randy Travis media coverage? It was his mug shot. I would have had to look twice if I didn't know it was him. It's the kind of picture that keeps shows and websites like TMZ going strong. How did someone of his stature sink to this point in life? But as I thought about it, the more I can see myself in that shot. Sometimes when I look in the mirror, my reflection is not that different. I might not look dazed or beaten up but I don't like what I see. The difference is that my mirror mug shot goes no farther than me; it never makes it to the IMAGE section on Google. How humiliating it must be to know your face has become a source of comedic routines and the brunt of jokes. And the public eats it up, whether it's entertainers or athletes  or politicians or preachers. I'm not excusing anything Randy Travis has done- alcohol and cars lead to funerals- but my mistakes/sins and yours are often known only to us and our Heavenly Father. I hope His image of me isn't mug shot-like every time I sin. Hopefully, He airbrushes out all of my flaws and sees me as a perfect likeness of the One in whose image I'm made. David wrote in Psalm 34:5 that,
Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. 
It's easy to tell, then, that my focus is in the wrong place, on me instead of on the Lord. I'm looking in the glass instead of to our God. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13 that, 

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror
I feel better now- what I see now is of little value! In the perfection that is to come, we'll all be flawless even though we leave much to be desired here. Say a prayer for Randy Travis tonight and those like him, if you don't mind. We all have our demons but to be able to battle them out of the limelight is a blessing. I thought I might show the shot I was speaking of  previously but that would just be doing what the gossip columns do. Instead, I'll leave you with one of the great Coke commercials of all time, starring...... Randy Travis.

Applicable quote of the day:
"The peak of a career can only last so long. You go up and you try to maintain it. But, it can only last so long and then you're going to go down."
Randy Travis

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

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Passing Conversation


What a time for sports in the US! Football is gearing up, the baseball pennant races are coming to a head, and the Rio Olympics are winding down. Many Americans are paying at least passing interest to what is going on in arenas or athletic fields or swimming pools both here and around the world. This morning after our Chinese worship service, we ate together as we always do. As I was leaving our meal, I was semi-monitoring a conversation among four young men/older men. The topics? The Houston Texans and the Dallas Cowboys. Nothing says America like Friday Night Lights unless you like college football which is played on Saturday or the NFL which competes mostly on Sunday. It won't be long now.

After lunch, as I crossed our courtyard, making my way to my car, I saw another small cluster of my Christian brothers and sisters, six I would guess although I did not stop to count. This group was also discussing the sports world, although the topic here was the Olympic Games, particularly the track events and specifically, I'm sure, the men's 4 x 100 relay. This is what I heard as I walked by:
"A slow exchange is a world class error."
Now, I'm not a big fan of track and field although I did high jump a little bit in high school. What I know about the current state of sprinting can be summed in two words: Usain Bolt. And yet my interest was piqued by what I picked up in those few seconds. I can't give you a complete roster of the six but I know two for sure: Mike Marsh and Michelle Finn Burrell. One of them had just spoken and one of them was about to speak. Those names might ring bells. Both Michelle and Mike won GOLD MEDALS in the 4 x 100 relays in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics where Mike also won gold in the 200 meters. (It should also be noted that Michelle's husband, Leroy, also was on that men's relay gold medal squad AND twice broke the world record in the 100 meters. Safe to say we have the most accomplished track congregation in Houston!) So, when Mike and Michelle discuss passing batons on relay exchanges on the world stage, it would behoove us to pay attention. And I never ran in a relay in my life.

With the advent of social media and talk radio, many people, usually cloaked in anonymity, fancy themselves as experts in all things athletic. Those who have competed at the highest level, who know the highs and lows, the techniques and the pitfalls, the exhilaration and the agony- that's who I want to hear. The same goes for our day to day existence in an increasingly complicated world. Don't give me some theoretical mumbo jumbo. Let me hear some survivor stories, especially in the spiritual realm. Give me the witness of the former addict or criminal or prodigal, who turned his or her life over to Jesus. That's why we can relate to Judah and David and Rahab and Bathsheba, who overcame tribulation and heartache and still found their way into the family tree of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. They may have dropped the baton but they never were disqualified. They kept running the race and we can gain the crown their lineage made possible. That's the best victory of all. And you don't have to be fast to win.

Applicable quote of the day:
If life truly is a relay, then it’s time to rethink everything—not only how we raise our own children, but how we disciple others in our neighborhoods, churches and communities. I believe this is the most important cause of our age. The next generation is poised, hand outstretched, eyes down the track, adrenaline pumping. Will we make the pass? The answer, in large part, is in our hands.
Jeff Myers

God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Looking For Mr. Steve




They were the first things I noticed when I initially walked into the 586 English Center in Can Tho last month. It was the beginning of my sixth mission to Vietnam, the highlight of my summer and increasingly my year. As an outreach into the community, the church I work with there began several years ago teaching English free of charge to school age kids in the area. After meeting in the church facility for a year, they were required to relocate and get licensed, both which turned out to be blessings. Beginning their second year, the school now has a waiting list and is looking to expand into a second campus, unbelievable just twelve months ago. The Lord has really blessed their efforts. That brings me back to the first sentence. What I saw on the wall of the school was a pair of announcements bearing my name in bold letters. Ngan, the director of the school, explained that it was publicity for a field trip and I was the drawing card. The excursion, to a wonderful park on the Mekong River, was open to the students and parents. And the ad campaign was a success. Previously, they had only four people sign up. Post Mr. Steve publicity.... seventy. That is no misprint- seventy. I thought about getting an agent on the spot.

You might wonder what the big deal was. Centers which supplement the English taught in Vietnamese schools are very popular. People from English speaking nations like the US, England, and Australia are in demand. Pronunciation is the major issue, in my opinion, for Vietnamese trying to learn my language. Pronunciation mistakes tend to be repeated over and over. So, an American who can help is a big deal. In a sense, I became a brand or logo. You may know if you read my Facebook accounts that I suffered a knee injury in Vietnam and was blessed to be treated by an excellent orthopedist. I filled out no paperwork and showed no identification, not even a passport. My X-Ray simply was marked, MR. STEVE. My medicine? Again, no paperwork and my prescription simply read, MR. STEVE. (Incidentally, total cost of everything? $30 USD!)

This week in my 8th grade class, I mentioned that in the opening of the Gospel of Luke, the author addresses the recipient of this work as Most Excellent Theophilus, leading some to believe Theophilus was a government official. But in the opening of Luke's sequel, Acts, the Most Excellent is dropped, leading some to believe he had become a Christian. And we often see the changing of names- Saul to Paul, Sarah to Sarai, Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel- is life changing. Interestingly, I had one of my Vietnamese students request an English name swap yesterday from Darius to Ethan to honor a family friend. You know, I see my role as similar to Aquila and Priscilla who taught Apollos the way of the Lord more accurately in Acts 18. The folks I work with in Can Tho know some English- in some small way, I just help them know it better. And if they want to change my name to Mr. Steve, so be it. I guess I'll find out their success rate when I go to apply for my visa next summer and simply write on the application, Mr. Steve. Well, maybe not. My fame might just be contained to the southern part of Vietnam!

Applicable quote of the day:“It ain't what they call you, it's what you answer to.” 
― W.C. Fields


God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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



Friday, August 19, 2016

From Hand To Hand


I'm always amazed at the way the Lord brings relief to us in ways we can never anticipate and from sources we would never expect. This is from August 18, 2008.

As I mentioned recently, I was absent from Sunday worship in Houston for six consecutive weeks in July and August. As I left our Chinese assembly for the last time in June before going to Honduras, my good brothers and sisters stuffed money in my hands to take with me to Central America. We had already cut the checks for the two orphanages we support so I just took the cash with me. At Las Palmas Refuge, I gave the cash ($57 US) to my dear friend, the wonderful and beautiful Shelly Hedgepath, and asked her to put it to its best use. (Shelly and her husband, Chad, moved to Honduras a year ago to work full time with Mission Lazarus, the group that coordinates many efforts near Choluteca. Shelly and Chad are also the only holdovers from my first trip to Honduras in 1998.) The next day, Shelly told me her plans for the money. There was a teacher in a Christian school in the area whose husband deserted her, leaving this sister-in-Christ with $800 worth of debt and three boys to take care of. Shelly asked me if it were acceptable to pay down the woman's debt. I was in complete agreement with her choice of recipient. Shelly knows best.

If I had to guess, I would bet the lady in Honduras had been praying hard to the Lord for relief in her time of need. I would also guess $800 worth of debt in her situation with her earning potential might translate to $35,000 if the debt were mine. Do you think she knew part of her relief would come from the United States, from Asian brothers and sisters, none of whom speak Spanish and some of whom don't speak English? The Lord knew in his infinite wisdom. He provides for us in ways we can't envision or imagine. I told that story in our worship last Sunday and I know our Chinese Christians feel like they made a difference. They did. They had no idea of how their gift would be employed but they left that up to God. He has a pretty good distribution system. He even let me lend a hand.

Applicable quote of the day:“Do you not know that God entrusted you with that money (all above what buys necessities for your families) to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to help the stranger, the widow, the fatherless; and, indeed, as far as it will go, to relieve the wants of all mankind? How can you, how dare you, defraud the Lord, by applying it to any other purpose?”
John Wesley


God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Letter Mom Kept

I don't get many texts but I got one an hour or so ago. It was from my brother, Scott, who lives in Wichita, Kansas as does my other brother, Dave. Scott had been cleaning out the garage and found a box of stuff our parents had kept over the years. Scott was going to toss it but that's hard to do when you know there is no more supply. He began going through it and came across this letter. That's what the text was, a picture of the note. I can't put an exact date on it but it was before my parents moved to St. Louis from Fenton, Missouri. But I can put an exact location on the incident being described in my all-caps hand writing

Like I said, I can't tell you exactly when it happened but I can tell you where I was sitting. I was home for a summer visit and I got angry at Mom over ...... a food processor. You know how moms are- they want to make their kids' lives better so on my last trip, she had given me a food processor to help me make the salads I eat with every meal. But it didn't make my life easier- it made it harder as I didn't like the way it shredded the vegetables- think coleslaw- and it was a nightmare to clean. When Mom asked how I was enjoying her gift, I told her it was impractical and that I had given it to neighbors who needed it. Mom got hurt and angry and I got mad at her reaction. Scott's wife, Karen, was sitting there with us and told my brother she was shocked- it was out of character for both of us. I don't recall anything else about the trip but it stayed on my mind enough that I penned that apology...... and she never threw it away.

As far as I can remember, it was never brought up again. I learned a hard lesson. I never meant to hurt Mom- we were close and I loved her with all my heart. I still don't know why she got mad and I don't know why she kept my words of remorse but it doesn't matter. I actually talked today in my last 8th grade class about making your mother cry and many of the kids told me they had caused painful tears from the one who bore them. I thought back tonight of Mary and what was said of her in Luke 2:19 when the shepherds visited and spoke of the Savior child:
But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
That's what mothers have always done, kept a museum of memories of their children locked away in the emotional vaults of their inmost being. Mom kept an envelope of Scott's hair from his first haircut and I have no idea why.....but I bet moms do. They love us unconditionally, even when it hurts. And in my case, Mom even saved the proof. I miss you, Mom, and I'm still sorry.

Applicable quote of the day:
Our mothers give us so many gifts. They give us the precious gift of life, of course, but they also leave treasured lessons that can guide us along our journeys even when they are no longer with us.
Maria Shriver

God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Ten Years After


I unloaded some harsh truth on my 8th period, 8th grade girls today. The truth was this: they care and boys don't.The girls might as well learn this now. This is from January 3, 2012.It wasn't something I planned. This afternoon, in my fifth period, eighth grade Bible class, I prefaced a topic which required some maturity from my students with my usual intro: 
"Are we all all adults here?" 
They all nodded their heads. I asked Bryanna, a young lady who played basketball for me last year, 
"Are you sure?" 
She looked around and this time, she shook her head NO. I knew what she meant. I asked her, "Are you referring to the opposite gender?" She shook her head YES. It was predictable. Most eighth grade girls think their male counterparts are silly and immature. Most eighth grade boys don't care what girls think. It's a standoff.

Normally, I would have  just gone on with our discussion but it seemed like a good time to make a point. I asked the eight wonderful young ladies in this section if they thought they were special and different in a good way when compared to other girls in the world who are being raised without discipline and spiritual values. My female students (Bryanna, Avery, Madison, Mallory, Kelsey, Kaitlyn, Lindsay, Laura) all agreed they are, as do I. So I asked them if the same wasn't true for these young men (Gino, Matthew, Jeremiah, Cory, Derrick, Richard, Sheyi, Devin) who share Room 258 from 12:09-12:55 PM five days a week. The girls had not considered that. I went on to say, with the voice of experience and being a recovering eighth grade boy myself, that in ten years, their male classmates, irritating and annoying as they are to them now, would be good men and the kind of guys they will want to fall in love with and marry. When spun in that light with a decade of distance, the girls agreed once more, not even grudgingly. Girls, I believe, are able to project themselves into the future  more easily than boys at that age and what they can perceive of these young men in 2022 is much more than what meets their eye today. Statistics show the odds are small that any of these kids will marry each other but you never know. Maybe we learned today that our present does not have to be our future. I'm confident the Lord sees me that way. With the coming decade to work, He can even mold me into someone less annoying, irritating, silly, and immature than  my present status. Get back to me in ten years. I might be busy preaching some weddings.

Applicable quote of the day:
"Boys will be boys. And even that wouldn't matter if only we could prevent girls from being girls.
Anne Frank 

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