Friday, August 17, 2018

The Present Future



Todd Rundgren never gets old to me. This is from August of 2012.
In 1931, Aldous Huxley gave a fictionalized view into the future with his novel, Brave New World. The title, taken from the Shakespeare play, The Tempest, envisioned humanity in London in the year 2540, AD. I'll be honest- it's one of those books I've read about but never actually read, which seems to be the manner in which some approach the Bible. Still, I knew enough about it, and books like Orwell's 1984 and Toffler's Future Shock, to understand that the prognosticators foretold a much different life in the distant years and did not paint a rosy picture of what is to come. (However there is one futuristic song, I love, Todd Rundgren's Sons of 1984 which you can listen to on the link below!)

You might wonder why I'm leading off this entry with literary references about the future and the unknown. Well, yesterday, our school took a huge step into the unknown. On August 20, 2012, Westbury Christian officially became a laptop school, or more accurately, a MAC institution. Every student in grades 8-12 has been issued an APPLE computer and every classroom is now connected to the wireless Internet. I'll be honest- I've been dreading this. I'm not techno savvy and I'm comfortable with the way I've been teaching. There are so many questions and issues to consider and potential problems that will pop up. And so after two days, my reaction to everything is.....terrific! There are still bugs, mostly with the consistency of the Internet feed in classrooms and apps not quite working yet but that will come. I really like the kids taking notes on their laptops and my students have done a terrific job. Maybe it's just the novelty but all changes start out as novelties. I'll adjust; I have adapted to the use of computer grades and projected notes and video clips. What did Jesus tell us?
 “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."
Since no one is more tech savvy than these children sitting in front of me, I guess His advice is still valid to me! When Jesus went into the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth, they handed Him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and He found the passage He was searching for and when He read, He stood up. Now, we'll find that passage on biblegateway.com instead of a scroll, but we'll still stand up when we read aloud just like He did. Some things will never change.

Applicable quote of the day:
"Worlds of tomorrow,

Life without sorrow,
Take it because it's yours,
Sons of 1984."
Todd Rundgren (from Sons of 1984)


To listen to Sons Of 1984, click or copy/paste the link below:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zT_VdkJeZOw


*Props to our WCS tech gurus Karen Long and Sam Abels for guiding us wisely and skillfully into our new direction!*

God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

Thursday, August 16, 2018

By Their Fruits...

It's been several years since we had our bi-annual Chesshir family reunion in  Nashville, Arkansas! It's always good for me to spend time with relatives. This entry, from July 13, 2009, is about our reunion nine summers ago and how it relates to my coming to be!

I have to tell you, I have a soft spot in my heart for berries. My father was raised in Michigan and his folks raised blueberries to sell. With the profits from their produce, my grandparents were able to send Dad to Harding College, a world away in Arkansas, where he met the red headed young lady who would become my mom. I could make the argument that my conception depended on blueberries. That might be a stretch but I can truthfully state that blue has always been my favorite color.

On the Friday morning of our family reunion, Uncle Jack announced that we were going berry picking. I drove the pickup truck with my cousins Emma and Walker while Uncle Jack cruised ahead on his John Deere mower. On two roadside fence rows separated by a half mile, the four of us picked wild berries in the early morning Arkansas heat. Uncle Jack told us their names which I didn't recognize- I would have thought they were mulberries. An hour worth of picking yielded two large Styrofoam cups full of fruit which graced the breakfast table the next two mornings. (One is shown above in a shot wonderfully framed by the nine year old camera prodigy, Emma.)

I don't know how Uncle Jack spotted those berry patches. I could have driven by those fences forever and never discovered anything edible entwined with the barbed wire. Uncle Jack knew where to look...and he was looking. Jesus used numerous illustrations and parables using fruit as the context. The Savior compared fruit to recognition of leaders, to the harvest of souls, to the reward for hard work. His only miracle of destruction concerned a fig tree that was acting like it should be producing fruit, but was not. It's easy to see how Jesus could come up with so many applications from such uncomplicated subject matter. Picking berries for only an hour sheds light on so many things. It was hot the day we went out and there were thorns. Emma and Walker had to overcome fatigue, discomfort, fear of high grass, and bugs if they wanted success, no easy task at ages nine and seven, respectively. The newness wore off quickly with the realization that it takes a considerable number of berries to fill a cup. Sometimes, you had to reach way back to find the better berries and sometimes, it wasn't evident which berries were the better ones. But, time and persistence- and Uncle Jack's encouraging- produced a nice gathering for the benefit of the whole family. As Christians, without calculating obstacles into the equation, we expect instant gratification in our spiritual harvests. Nature has never worked that way and the Lord never promised easy results. He did promise, however, that the harvest was plentiful. Sometimes, we just have to overcome a few thorns.

Applicable quote of the day:
"
Better than any argument is to rise at dawn and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup.

Wendell Berry

God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Authority Figure

Several years ago, Hud Mellencamp won the 14 year old age division of the Indiana Golden Gloves. Son of legendary rock star, John 'Cougar' Mellencamp, the youngster qualified for nationals in the 132 pound class. In one of the best music videos ever, the senior Mellencamp belted out Authority Song in the role of....BOXER! I sense a pattern! The following, about that song and its place in my heart, is from January 28, 2007.

I owe this one to Jennifer. (I should say, Jeniphurrr, the latest way of spelling her name. Something about teenage girls!) A sophomore in my Bible class, Jennifer played junior high basketball for me. She came up last week and gave me my Christmas present, apologizing for being a month late. I wasn't expecting anything from Jennifer, one of my all-time favorite WCS Lady Wildcats. But it was a great present, a gift card from Best Buy! Now, I'm not electronic but I had ideas. Yesterday, I drove to the nearest Best Buy and just as I turned in, it came on the oldies' station: The Authority Song by John Cougar Mellencamp. Parking my Toyota, I killed the engine and cranked the volume. I was transported to an old blue-and-white school bus cruising down the road at dusk in South Georgia, headed back to Dasher after a baseball game. It was my first coaching job at Georgia Christian School, trying to turn the program into a winner. I am relatively certain the bus driver that long ago Spring was Wendell Spearman, one of the most patient souls I've worked with, and he tolerated us. Who won that day? I have no clue but I remember this like it was yesterday: the Generals and their coach had a singalong when The Authority Song played on the radio and I have never heard a bus so loud. It was so much fun, the kind of memory that outlives won-loss records and batting averages. I loved that song, with its repeating, thumping chorus.
I fight authority, Authority always wins.
I fight authority, Authority always wins.
I been doing it since I was a young kid
I come out grinnin'
I fight authority, Authority always wins.

I made mistakes as a kid but was never defiant. For a couple of minutes, I could belt out Mellencamp's rock anthem and feel borderline rebellious before retreating to my normal state of obedience. Man, I was living on the edge! Now, I make my players use headphones when listening to music and if I hear it, it's too loud. Times changed- and so have I.

I don't think kids are much different than when I was young; they just have more technology and options. Some will fight you on everything if you let them...so you don't let them. Some are so compliant they won't speak up even when I make a mistake. I have intentionally made outlandish statements in class before and no one challenged me. We can't stop using our brain. I grew up with a chain of command in my house: the Lord, my folks, my teachers-coaches-all other adults. I didn't fight authority; I respected it. One of the most uncomfortable times of my life was running two youth baseball leagues as a college student in Arkansas and telling the coaches, some of whom were my professors, what to do. The Bible teaches authority is never to be feared when we do what is right. It might be in the classroom or at the job, in the family or in the church. What amazed the first century crowds about the Messiah? The Scriptures tell us that it was the authority he taught with. Our minister, David Yasko, made the point recently that authority can be granted but respect is earned. Authority administered with kindness and consideration makes submission feel like cooperation. That's how Jesus did it. If a child learns that authority is instituted for their benefit, life can become bearable. And when The Authority Song comes over the airways, cover their ears and sing like you're on a school bus with a bunch of teenage boys. Authority always wins.
PS: With Jennifer's gift card, I bought my second George Foreman Grill!


Applicable quote of the day:
"The authority of those who teach is often an obstacle to those who want to learn."
Cicero


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-W7RNGOHKQ

God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1
http://www.hawleybooks.com/

E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Sheela

School starts in only thirty-six hours! So much has happened in my life since I closed down my classroom in May that the beginning of classes caught me off guard. The best thing about teaching is the kids and we will have a terrific group this year. The start of school always coincides with former students returning to campus to see former teachers. The following is from August 14, 2006 and recounts a visit from one of the best I have known.


She was waiting when I emerged from the office following a scheduling meeting at the end of the day. I hadn't seen Sheela in four years so I had to look twice: the eighth grade girl I knew has been replaced by a lovely young woman. She's leaving for college and wanted to see me, more to reconnect than to say good-bye. We went to my classroom and talked for an hour and a half. After middle school at Westbury Christian, her folks enrolled Sheela in a prestigious all-girls academy here in Houston. She excelled as I knew she would. I told her how much I wished she could have stayed with us so I could have taught her again and maybe had her as a teacher's aide. During our ninety minutes, she told me her plans/hopes and we reminisced about junior high. I reminded her of the fight she had with her best friend, Lauren, and how I acted as peacemaker at the cafeteria table summit. In eighth grade, something came up about my address and Sheela knew it, prompting the other kids to call her Sting for the rest of the year. (For non-hip readers, Sting refers to the lead singer of The Police who vocalized the lyrics to the all-time stalking song, Every Step You Take.) Like many of our students, she has a diverse cultural background, her mother being Filipino and her dad coming from Pakistan. She told me about her life and the forces that have made her who she is. We laughed alot and she cried a little. We talked about the difference between success as the world defines it and excellence, which can't be calculated by a bank account. I predicted great things for her life and let her know how I proud of her I am, as I know her family is. The time came for her to leave and as she exited Room 258, she reached up and touched the LUKE 18:1 sign on the door, just as she had for one-hundred-eighty days as an eighth grader. I walked her to her car and she very proudly pointed out her UT Longhorn sticker in the rear window. I promised to pray for her in college and she promised it wouldn't be another four years until she visited. She drove off to prepare for the next stage of her life and I returned to my room to prepare for the next Sheela to arrive in my class.

In both Second John and Third John, the apostle makes reference to having great joy in the progress of the souls he had worked with earlier. That's how I feel when I come into contact with students like Sheela that have crossed my path throughout the years. Most experienced teachers could relate similar stories. Students make teaching possible; the Sheelas of the academic world make it worthwhile. She will never know how much I was honored that she came by this afternoon. To understand, I guess you just have to be a teacher or a coach ...or a parent. Tomorrow is August 15th- PAYDAY, our first paycheck under our new contracts. I'm not going to advise our business office to tear up my check but I'll let you in on a secret: I received my compensation today.


Applicable quote of the day:
"Education is a painful, difficult, and continual work to be done in kindness by watching, by warning, by praise, but above all, by example."
John Ruskin


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMOGaugKpzs


God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Biography



We are easily fooled and sometimes, I'm convinced, because we want to be. Jesus warned of impostors and they continue to come in all shapes and sizes. The following is about one of the greatest hoaxes of all time. I wrote this on April 1st, 2007.

It seemed appropriate. In conjunction with April Fools' Day, CBS Sunday Morning ran a piece on Clifford Irving this morning. A movie, The Hoax, is set to premier this month, chronicling Irving's fake biography of reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes. In 1970, the forty year old Irving persuaded the McGraw-Hill publishing company to give him three quarters of a million dollars, convincing them he had been chosen by Hughes to write his life story. Irving produced handwritten letters from Hughes which Irving himself had forged. (The letters even passed the scrutiny of hand writing experts.) He volunteered to take, and passed, a polygraph test. When asked on the lie detector if had ever met Hughes, Irving truthfully answered yes, later explaining he had been introduced to Hughes as a little boy, allowing him to give an honest answer. The scheme finally disintegrated when the one thing Irving thought would never occur, happened. Howard Hughes, the most secretive celebrity in America, went public and denounced the biography as fraudulent. Irving, his wife, and Richard Suskind, who had helped him make up the Hughes interviews, all served jail time. Clifford Irving, Cornell educated and blessed with the boldness that only con men can muster, became synonymous with intellectual fabrication.

As they discussed the movie in which Richard Gere plays the role of Irving, I was amazed at the reaction of the real life scammer. Clifford Irving, now seventy-six, appeared to be very offended that the facts of the movie were inaccurate. Can you say ironic? How could anyone pull off a stunt for as long as Irving did? We believe because we want to believe. Hughes was such a fascinating character that the public ate up the slightest bit of information about his life as an aviator, financier, and romancer of the most beautiful women in show business. Irving's claims were so outlandish- he even fooled brutal interviewer Mike Wallace- that they had to be true. There are many New Testament cautions for believers to be on the watch for deceivers. Jesus foretold impostors claiming to be him. The epistles follow that theme, sounding the alarm that Christians can be tricked, if we are not careful, by smooth arguments and empty words. We laugh when someone pulls one over on us. But when the deceit is spiritual in nature, Paul warns of the wrath of God, no laughing matter. Irving's hoax, which he claimed was never meant to be malicious, landed him in prison for over a year. Deceptions which impact on our faith can have a much more stringent, and permanent, sentence.



Applicable quote of the day:
"I was on a train of lies. I couldn't jump off."
Clifford Irving



God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Graying Of America


I received a Facebook message from one of my favorite former students today. His mom has Alzheimer's and his father is suffering because of it. With my mother's situation, I know what that family has endured. I wrote this on January 26, 2006.

We live in an aging population. Half of news broadcasts contain stories on Medicare or Social Security funding. Daily I see the effects of getting older. I live in a complex defined as a senior apartment community. A certain percentage of the leasers must retirement age. One of our faculty last spring was denied in her application because, due to the current age makeup of the population, she was too young- you know women love that! There are advantages to living here. The maintenance staff is wonderful and fast. Some problems, like air conditioner breakdowns, could become life or death for some of the aged. It is also VERY QUIET! Some of the amenities don't apply to me- bus rides to the grocery store or weekend bingo games in the clubroom. What bothers me is watching the aging process devastate my neighbors. Wheelchairs and walkers are standard equipment at the community mailbox. Oxygen carts accompany some residents wherever they go. One of my favorites is Louise. Every time I pass her apartment, the door is open and she calls out my name. I passed her apartment last week and for the first time, her greeting was muted and disconsolate. I backtracked and checked on her. In my eight years in Houston, Louise has never been less than feisty. She told me of unrelenting pain. There is nothing that can be done for her condition, a growth on the esophagus that curtails swallowing. I asked her age and found out she is eighty-four. Louise told me she is resigned to life in a nursing home even though her mind is sharp. I left with a feeling of profound sadness.

At age twenty-seven, Paul Simon wrote and sang an odd song with his partner, Art Garfunkel. We didn't have many records so we played this one to death, etching haunting words in my memory vault. (Shoutout to Dave for helping shape my musical tastes!) The album was Bookends, the song was Old Friends:

Old friends, old friends
Sat on the park bench like bookends.
Can you imagine us years from today
Sharing a park bench quietly?
How terribly strange to be seventy.
Old friends,
Memory brushes the same years,
Silently sharing the same fears.


I wonder if Simon's perspective has changed in the thirty-eight years since he penned those lyrics? I observe the elderly and discuss the reality of aging with my students. Today, I had my sophomores write in class. Two paragraphs were required; What I Would Enjoy About Being Old and What I Fear About Being Old. The standard of old we used was between seventy-five and eighty years. The second paragraph for most was longer than the first and it seems girls look forward to retirement more than boys. I would guess their views are colored, by their relationships with grandparents. Enjoying life with family was included in the paragraphs of positives along with travel and relaxation. Death, disease, loss of independence, and loneliness were fears associated with their distant future. I was surprised not to see more mentions of financial insecurity and senility. The kids did a very good job. They can be wonderfully reflective when given the opportunity.


Several days ago, I received an e-mail from my first cousin, Marsha. Her dad's aunt just died as well as another first cousin's father-in-law. At our Chesshir reunion this summer, it became obvious the torch is being passed to the next generation. I don't feel prepared to accept. So many memories flood back during get-togethers on our grandparents' peach farm outside Nashville, Arkansas. Like my siblings and cousins, it's where I grew up, even if we only were present one week per year. I never knew Grandmother- she died young and I think Mom, in spite of Alzheimer's, still misses and mourns her. Grandpa was a classic, a true Southern gentleman. He was outwardly different than my mom but I can tell by the way she turned out that he was a terrific father. (Dittoes for the finished products of Aunts Evelyn /Jerry and Uncle Bill!) I was eighteen the last time I saw Grandpa. At Christmas my freshman year in college, I spent several days with him. He'd moved into town and it just wasn't the same as seeing him in his element, the farm. It hit me- he was old. That's tough for a teenager to come to grips with. I went through a Jerry Jeff Walker stage in college. Although I could never endorse his hard-drinking lifestyle, his songs choke me up. My favorite is Desperadoes Waitin' For A Train, penned by Guy Clark. One verse in particular IS my last memory of my Grandpa Chesshir:


One day I looked up, he was pushing eighty.
He got brown tobacco stains all down his chin.
To me, he's one of the heroes of this country,
So why's he all dressed up like them old men?


Both my grandfathers did what I will do, Lord willing, and that is grow old. I don't like to think about it. The scriptures never make false promises about our earthly bodies. Our flesh deteriorates even while there remains a beating heart and breathing lungs. But, we are also promised rewards for a productive life in the service of God: wisdom, honor that comes with silver hair, rest from labors, and a new home in a far away place! What could be more exciting than a retirement home with no wheel chair ramps or nurses on call? I am no prophet but I would guess there is no AARP in heaven. No need of senior discounts or prescription drug plans! And no more sad songs to make me cry!



Applicable quote of the day:
"To me, old age is always ten years older than I am."
Andre B. Buruch


To listen to Old Friends, click or copy-paste the link below:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=snVOxz6fjbA

God bless,
Steve (#2 chronological grandson of Jord and Ruth McClure Chesshir)
Luke 18:1

http://www.hawleybooks.com/

E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Back Home Again


I returned from Vietnam one week ago today. There are always mixed feelings after a mission. This entry, from July 24, 2006, explores these emotions.

It was over as soon as it began. My eight day mission trip to Honduras with sixty-nine fellow Christians was too short in time but left me with an eternity of memories. My ninth trip was unique, as the other eight were, but contained the constants that have me plan my summers around this Central American pilgrimage. We laughed, we cried, we worked, we played, we loved, we taught, we helped, and we served. And in the end, we were the ones most blessed.

The day after is the hardest. The euphoria is overwhelming as I prepare for the trip and during its duration but I'm semi-depressed when it's over. There's always one more lesson to teach, one more child to hug, one more mouth to nourish, one more smile to cherish. You never finish; you hope you lay groundwork for blessing those who have less materially but ironically, seem to possess much more joy than their North American counterparts. I got dinged a bit. Mission trips can be physically demanding, especially when your role is one of manual labor. My right arm bears two new scars where flesh rubbed raw was coated with powdered concrete and allowed to bond. Skin was torn from toes on both feet as I continually crossed a mountain stream in my Nikes- I discounted the pebble factor. And, I took the worst fall of my life as I disembarked from the back of a flat bed truck. What I feared was an ACL tear in my right knee appears to be nothing more than a scare but visions of surgery with months of rehab flashed through my mind. We are promised help for our service from the maker of the universe in 1st Peter 4:11 and I survived. For six days, I mixed concrete on the ground with Honduran men who get paid two or three dollars per day for backbreaking labor. They looked much older than their years but they never complained and never stopped. They are thin but tremendously strong. We are heavier but weaker. We are rich but they are content. We pity them. Maybe they should pity us.

Only fifty-one weeks until my next mission! The battle Jesus described in Matthew 25's Sheep and Goats Parable is still being waged on many different fronts, though. Sometimes in Honduras, we quiz each other on the first thing we want to eat when we arrive in our native land. (My favorite all-time answer came from Trina Agee- KOOL WHIP!) My meal of choice on my return to Texas is two Whataburgers chased by two pints of Blue Bell Ice Cream. As I walked back to my apartment with my bag of burgers, only scant hours after our plane touched down, a man stopped me as I prepared to cross West Bellfort. He told me he was diabetic and hungry. He asked if I could help and he asked me to pray for him. I just happened to have some extra money. Leaving Honduras via the airlines requires paying a exit tax of thirty-two dollars. Chad Hedgepath, our terrific mission leader, gave each of us forty dollars for the fee with instructions to keep the change for lunch. It seems the rich just get richer. Chad's generosity paid for my passage onto the Continental jet as well as my new friend's supper. Poverty apparently does not recognize borders or nationalities. It's an equal opportunity curse. The cure is complicated but in any equation, it requires love...and Jesus.


Applicable quote of the day, # 1:
"Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little."
Edmund Burke

Applicable quote of the day, #2:

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
Margaret Mead


God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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