Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A Fork In The road

Tomorrow will mark the fifty-fourth anniversary of JFK in Dallas. Several years ago, I asked my classes to name the two US Senators from the state of Texas. Of one hundred plus young scholars, zero correct responses to my query. (For the inquiring mind, the Senators were John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, respectively.) Eleven plus years ago, I wrote this piece about a Texas political icon, Nellie Connally, whose place in history was remembered today as well. I doubt most of my current students have heard of her, either! This is from September 3, 2006.
A footnote to history died yesterday. Nellie Connally passed away at age eighty-seven in Austin, Texas. An author, she was the widow of former Texas governor, Secretary of the Treasury and Navy, and one time presidential candidate, John Connally. A cancer survivor and involved in charitable causes, Mrs. Connally was recognized a number of years ago when Houston's M.D. Anderson Cancer Center named a section of the hospital in her honor. In spite of those accomplishments, Nellie Connally will primarily be remembered for one instant. She was a passenger in the limousine when President Kennedy was assassinated and spoke the last words JFK likely heard: "Mr. President, you certainly can't say that Dallas doesn't love you!" Her husband was shot concurrently, surviving after a lengthy recovery. The country is still mesmerized by the scene of Jackie Kennedy crawling over the trunk of the Lincoln Continental, helping the secret service agent into the automobile in a futile attempt to save her fatally wounded husband. Nellie Connally was the final survivor of that horribly bleak moment in American history.

Today was my Sunday to preach for our Chinese congregation. My topic was another historical character whose defining moment came while going down the road, although in a chariot instead of a limo; the Ethiopian eunuch of Acts 8. The unnamed official of an African government listened to Philip the evangelist speak of the risen Savior, culminating in his baptism into Jesus Christ. The direction of the life of Paul was likewise altered as he walked down the road to Damascus, leading the former persecutor of the church to become its greatest spreader of the faith. The existence of Simon of Cyrene took on greater meaning after he was coerced into carrying the cross of the Messiah down the road from metro Jerusalem to the place nicknamed The Skull. Mark's Gospel account of the crucifixion lists Simon's sons, indicating they were well known to the church and lending credence to the possibility that the father of Alexander and Rufus was also a Christian. The common denominator in each of these three believers' stories was that events on middle eastern thoroughfares rerouted their destinations. These revisions without a doubt led to eternal detours for others who came into their sphere of influence. For Nellie Connally, those seconds on Elm Street in Dallas, captured on Abraham Zapruder's hand-held movie camera, would haunt her until her final breath yesterday. But for a eunuch, a converted Christian terrorizer, and an involuntary cross bearer, the road became a pathway to a new and eternally rewarding life.

Applicable quote of the day:
"I've never known a woman with Nellie's courage, compassion, and character. For all her ups and downs, I've never heard a self-pitying word from her."
Barbara Walters on the life of Nellie Connally

God bless,
Luke 18:1

E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com

Monday, November 20, 2017

Standing Among Us

Our WCS 2017 football season is in the books. The Wildcats lost a tough game this past Friday to a squad from San Antonio in the first round of the state playoffs. But it was a big deal as we hosted a postseason game for the first time in the twenty-year history of our program. Great things are ahead for our gridiron teams!

I used to be a part of the game crew, being on the first down chain gang the first sixteen years we had football which coincided with my moving to Houston. In the past four seasons, we have partnered with Houston Baptist University (HBU) and play our home games in their very nice stadium and our coaching staff has turned to parents to man the chains, a decision with which I agree. During games, I stand on the rail between the lower bleachers and the upper stands. Several weeks ago, I was manning my spot when one of our other coaches came up to me and asked,
"Hey, did you see -----------?"

The name that goes in the blank is a very well known American woman, an icon of the 1980s. She and her husband live in Houston and her daughter apparently is a cheerleader at the school which served as our opponent. I looked to where he was pointing about thirty feet away and I instantly recognized her. She had once been all over the magazines and ads, always a very wholesome figure. She was easy to spot, a friendly face with a glowing smile. I unobtrusively watched her for awhile and saw her interacting with the crowd, some wanting to take her picture. I thought she was amazingly gracious and kind. In my classes, we talk about what it would be like to be a celebrity, always recognized in public and having to deal with a real lack of privacy as well the dangers which can accompany fame. Still, most of us would love to give it a shot, just to make sure to see what we are missing. I thought the celebrity in the stands was a perfect example of how to comport yourself in public. My hope is I could do the same in the very small chance the need would ever arise.

Here is something I found interesting. I had seen the lady when I walked up the ramp to the stands. She was simply another fan at a high school game until her name was made known to me. I could have had a conversation with her and  nothing would have clicked in my brain. It took the revealing of her identity for me to make the connection. Then, of course, it became obvious when I started looking for the traits and features I remembered. In retrospect, I am reminded of what John the Baptist was preaching about the messiah. Speaking with the religious leaders commissioned to question him, John the Baptist stated this in John 1:26: 
"I baptize with water," John replied, 
"but among you stands One you do not know."
The people were almost universally looking for the promised one but even though He was in their midst, most did not come to the same conclusion John did, although we are told John received a sign from the Lord. I wonder if I had been told the lady was someone famous, if I could have figured it out. I tell my middle school students they might be sitting next to or in the same class with their future spouse; predictably, most are appalled. But when I ask them if they were told by the Lord, that what I stated was true, would they treat the other gender with more respect? Of course they would! I'm not sure John convinced anybody to look closer for the Savior but they couldn't say they weren't warned! When we play that school again, I'll be keeping a sharper eye out for the incognito celebrity. I won't ask for an autograph but I might make some more observations. Amazingly, none of my students knew who she was when I mentioned the incident in class. I hope they won't say the same thing about Jesus. I always try to point Him out.

Applicable quote of the day:
When you become a celebrity, the world owns you and your image. 
Megan Fox

God bless,
Luke 18:1

E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Translator

Translators are invaluable, a fact hammered in my brain after teaching international kids and traveling extensively! This is from November 17, 2013.
Wayne was absent from my class last Thursday and Friday. We had a test and a quiz; he has the test made up so far and I'm sure he'll have the quiz taken care of quickly. Wayne is a pretty good student and good students get their work made up in a timely manner. This would be an odd entry if it was simply about an absent student, a daily occurrence at every school. He missed classes those days with his teammates as our Wildcat basketball squad played in a tournament at a nearby college. But Wayne is not your typical Westbury Christian basketball player. You see, Wayne, whose given name is  Wenxuan, is from China and the first international student from Asia to have an impact as a player in our program in my sixteen years at WCS. I would guess he's 6'7" and he's coming off a broken leg suffered last season but he's rehabbed and healed quickly. But this isn't a basketball story either; it's a language story.

Wayne is in my 7th period class which is called ESL Bible and a first for us in the spiritual department. It's a bit of a misnomer as not everyone in the class has English as their second language. I requested that Jean Lander, our amazing guidance counselor, sprinkle a number of native speakers into the class roster to help those for whom English is a struggle. Last year, I had several American students sit with international students as we took notes and I discovered two things. One was that the grades of the international students improved and secondly, a bond was formed which would not have otherwise. This year, we are attempting to do it on a broader scale while teaching the same material as in my other four sections. Of the twenty-four kids enrolled in my 7th period, twelve are from China but it doesn't stop there. Another is from Vietnam by way of Japan, one is from Ecuador, one is from Tanzania, and one has dual American citizenship with South Africa. But that doesn't quite tell the story, either. Four of the students, all girls, are American citizens but their parents are immigrants, two from Nigeria and two from The Philippines. These last four, as well as the young man with dual citizenship and the young lady from Tanzania, have English as their first language but they are well acquainted with the barriers that language can erect. When we begin the note taking part of class, usually the final fifteen to twenty minutes, we rearrange our desks as the English speakers sit with the international students and help with spelling and translating my ramblings. Some good friendships have formed already this semester as well as some pretty good report card grades. In English, we refer to that scenario as win-win!

That brings me back to Wayne. To be honest, Wayne's vocabulary is so good he doesn't need help. But his absence last week created a dilemma for me. Electronic translators are not allowed on tests and quizzes in my class- they are permitted for writing assignments. So, when an international student does not comprehend a word on a quiz or a test, they raise their hand and I move to their desk and define it. Except sometimes, they don't understand the meaning of the definition so I try again and they don't understand that either. That's where Wayne comes in. He's deep in thought and I say, "Wayne- ..............." and he spits out the proper word or phrase in Mandarin. Invariably, there is a light of recognition, a shaking of the head, and a return to the quiz. And I invariably add, "That's what I meant to say." It is no exaggeration to estimate Wayne's input probably raised one of his classmate's grade by 5% points this semester. I hope his countryman will remember Wayne at Christmas time, or at least during the Chinese New Year.

If the Lord were to bestow on me any gift I lack, I would request the gift to be able to speak a second language, especially Chinese or Vietnamese. My effectiveness in mission work would soar, or at least that is my perception. In 1st Corinthians, Paul stresses the need for an interpreter when someone is speaking in tongues so the hearers are not left in the dark. We all have different levels of understanding in the academic areas and that pertains to language as well. Many of my international students excel in Bible, a subject of which they might possess little background knowledge. The overwhelming majority, especially the young ladies, are successful due to extreme diligence in their efforts. But sometimes, they all need a helpful nudge and not just from the instructor. One thing I try to instill as we study each day is a little American culture along with the scriptures. I think I need to pass on the meaning of the old proverb, a word to the wise.  And in my class, it usually emanates from Wayne.

Applicable quote of the day:
"I personally believe we developed language because of our deep inner need to complain."
Jane Wagner

God bless,

Luke 18:1

E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Attention To Detail

Although I'm sure I come across at times as somewhat sloppy in dress and the condition of my teacher's desk is in disarray, I am a stickler for certain things in teaching and coaching. The best teachers and coaches I had wanted things done a certain way and accepted nothing less than adherence to their standards. I might not have understood or agreed...but I learned. The following is from June 19, 2006.

It happened again. Last December, the outside handle of the driver side door on my Toyota Corolla broke. I can still open the door but it became a two hand exercise instead of a simple lifting of the mechanism. Yesterday morning, as I was getting out of the car to go inside our church building for worship, the inside handle shattered. I couldn't believe it! An outside broken door handle is a pain but when the inside one is disabled, it's dangerous. I can justify driving to school and back with it in that condition, but on the highway, it becomes a hazard. There are two ways to get out now. I can roll down the window and try to pull up the non-functioning outside handle, triggering the latch OR I can crawl over the gearshift and squeeze out the passenger door. Neither is a viable option. In the event of a crash, my beige Corolla could become a deathtrap. I can't risk that. It will have to be fixed before I leave Houston for St. Louis and points west next Tuesday.

We are in the final of our three weeks/six sessions of basketball camp at Westbury Christian School. While Houston has been inundated with torrential downpours causing flooding, camp life remained normal. Today was the first day of shooting camps, one in the morning and one after lunch. In the afternoon, I am in charge of stops, starts, and turns. Groups of youngsters rotate through eleven stations, each three minutes in length. With the help of my wonderful assistants, Kayla Jones and Tara Rodgers, I showed the campers several very basic skills dealing with footwork, undertaught in most programs. We are on a tight schedule. The scoreboard clock is reset immediately after the buzzer goes off and we need every second to adequately cover our skill for the day. Several times, the group rotating to our basket walked from their previous station. When that occurred, I sent them back and made them run. Most of the kids who had to repeat their journey are in middle school. I asked how many were trying out for teams next school year and they invariably were. I tried to impress on them that running instead of walking during tryouts could be the difference between receiving a uniform or getting cut from the squad. They don't realize the importance of what they consider minor details. Four years ago, the best athlete who tried out for my middle school girls team did not make it simply because she was habitually late. She wasn't late the next year. I didn't really understand the value of small things when I was younger. As a coach, I have to and it is my responsibility to pass on to the kids the standards they will be judged by. Jesus, while being the master of the big picture, never downplayed the importance of what the world might consider minutiae. He praised the woman who gave a tiny amount of money. He praised the sharing of a small amount of water. He praised the growth potential of the minuscule mustard seed. Details become big deals under the right circumstances. I googled inside car door handles for 1999 Corollas- $14.95 or only a tiny fraction of the value of the car. But, without that handle which weighs only four or five ounces, my Toyota is going nowhere and neither am I. Suddenly, "getting a handle on the situation" has taken on a whole new meaning!

Applicable quote of the day:
"Success is the sum of details."
Harvey S. Firestone

God bless,
Luke 18:1


E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com

Friday, November 17, 2017

Eighth Grade Beatitudes, 2017

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

My Bible classes finished the Beatitudes recently. The eight statements of Jesus at the outset of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew's chapter five are familiar to Christians but are often foreign to the way we act. How are we supposed to rejoice and mourn concurrently? Who feels good about being mistreated? Philip Yancey translated these teachings as Lucky Are The Unlucky. Our class periods centered around our own translations of these contradictory, to the non-believer, words of truth from the lips of the Savior. Each student was assigned the task of recreating the Beatitudes in ways that made sense to them in twenty-first century Houston, Texas. What follows is a sampling of the theology of my 8th grade students. All are used by permission with boys in blue and girls in pink:

Blessed are the restless for God will give them peace. 

Blessed are those who are unheard for a listening ear will come to them.

Blessed are those in the shadows for God will shine upon them. 

Blessed are the scared for they will be brave in the eyes of the Lord God. 

Blessed are the bored for they will be eager to see God.

Blessed are the trapped for they will be set free in heaven.


Blessed are those who lift their voices to the Lord for the Lord will lift them up.

Blessed are those who are alone for God will be beside them.

Blessed are the blind for one day they will see the wonderful creation of God.

Blessed are the homeless for they will live in God's hands.

Blessed are the short people for there are no high shelves in heaven.

Blessed are the poorly dressed for in the kingdom of God, it doesn't matter how you dress.

Blessed are those who are held back  for  they will know more.

Blessed are the confused for God will help them understand.

Blessed are the weak for they will find strength in God's glory.

Blessed are the horrible bakers for their cookies taste amazing to God!

Blessed are the sick for in heaven, they will be truly healthy.

Blessed are the poor on earth for money has no meaning in heaven.

Blessed are those who struggle for they will be rewarded in heaven.

Blessed are those with self doubt for God will always love them.

Blessed are the paralyzed for they will walk with God.

Blessed are those who fail for God will let them stand up and keep going.

Blessed are those who flee for they will find refuge in the kingdom of God.

Blessed are the disabled for they will dance with the angels in heaven.

Blessed are the ignored for God gives them His full attention.

God bless,
Luke 18:1

E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com

Thursday, November 16, 2017

On The Road

The deaths of my parents left me with six weeks per year that I always spent with them. Usually, I flew to Missouri but eleven years ago, I decided I wanted to make the very long drive from Houston to St. Louis. This is my version of Jack Kerouac's On The Road. It is taken from June 28, 2006.

I made it to St. Louis! About an hour ago, I pulled into my folks' driveway after putting eight hundred miles on the Corolla. Tuesday, I couldn't sleep so I got out of bed at 2:45 AM and left Houston at 4:00. Driving is such a different experience from flying- I hadn't realized just how much. As I recover from sixteen hours in a small car, here are a few observations and highlights.
1. There must be a Dollar General store on main street in every little town between Texas and Missouri.
2. I wish my Toyota had a CD player and cruise control. HOWEVER, it did get 36.1 miles per gallon on the trip!
3. I heard an NPR feature as I drove. The topic was the interstate system and it made some great points I had never considered about its construction and its affect on the United States. I made terrific time driving on I-30 but it wasn't as much fun as being on US 59 and US 67, both of which cut through the middle of every tiny village in their paths.
4. There are so many great things about small towns. I can't get enough of water towers that, after the town name, proudly announce HOME OF THE BOBCATS. Or LIONS. Or TIGERS. Or any of a number of other kind of fierce beasts. I also love the signs at the city limits: WELCOME TO JONESVILLE: State Football runner up, 1981.
5. You can run the scan button on your radio, both AM and FM, and not pick up anything for thirty minutes for two thirds of my trip.
6. I wish they would put rates on motel marquees. I stopped at the first place that had their per night fee listed.
SUPER 8 MOTEL Poplar Bluff, Missouri $45 per night single Five Stars
7. McDonalds and IHOP have the best coffee.
8. A plane, a yellow crop duster, took off right over my head in Corning, Arkansas. The runway ends at US 67. It was exciting!
9. In tiny Swifton, Arkansas, I saw two little girls, probably about six or seven, walking together down the highway which doubles as the main drag. In Houston, that would be considered child endangerment. In Swifton, it's just the small town way of life.
10. Town squares are great. I pulled into Fredericktown, Missouri, (population 3,930) for lunch today. I found a Subway store where a pretty woman smiled at me...and blushed! I bought a meatball sandwich and ate it in a park a block away. The city is set up around the courthouse and all the traffic flows in a circle around it. My hometown tore down our historic courthouse- not efficient enough was the explanation. Bless the communities that keep their historic markers and buildings for the next generation!
11. Diet Dr. Thunder, the Wal-Mart generic version of Dr. Pepper, costs only $1.88 for a twelve pack and after the first five, I can't tell the difference!

What if Paul had written a blog on his mission trips? He never would had time to preach! As I need to be reminded of often, the Lord gave us a beautiful country in which to abide. It's hard to tell at thirty thousand feet from the window seat of a Southwest Airlines jet, my normal mode of transportation. It's good to see it again at eye level. The scenery from Houston to Missouri is a beautiful, sometimes breathtaking, landscape populated by beautiful and down to earth people. God bless America.

Applicable quote of the day:
"The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see."
G.K. Chesterton

God bless,
Luke 18:1

E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Wishin' And Hopin'

My Bible classes at school always start with a couple of great stories about children being born. I like baby stories, especially about the child born in Bethlehem a long time ago. Here is another one of my favorite baby tales, this one from September 5, 2007.

I don't know much about babies except for being one at some point in my life but I spend enough time with kids to know they have influence beyond their size and years. Did you catch the story in Florida last week? A four year old girl named Zoe Byler was an only child and told her parents of her wish to have a brother or sister. Zoe's folks, Karoline and Ben, deemed it a reasonable request. Karoline, facing some medical issues, took fertility drugs and got pregnant, really pregnant. Last week, the twenty-nine year old gave birth to sextuplets, five boys and one girl, delivered at twenty-nine weeks. The sextuplets are the first recorded case in Florida history and each baby appears to have an excellent chance for survival. Wow: some wishes do come true! And you can trace it all back to a four year old.

 My classes have been discussing the miraculous births of John the Baptist and Jesus. We talked about the reaction of the mothers, one too old and one too single according to the norms of nature and the culture. Elizabeth rejoiced when pregnant with John the Baptist, elated that her barren condition and her disgrace had been removed. Mary, alarmed at the sight of the angel Gabriel, was terrified at first and then wondered how a virgin could have a child. I brought up some issues the Bylers will face with six premature babies arriving in one delivery, primarily the unbelievable costs that will be incurred over the next several decades. I asked whether those issues disappeared when that mother held those precious babies in her arms. My guess is she saw her DNA and not dollar signs, her future generations and not the worry of affordability. Babies change families and babies change history. What would the world be without John the Baptist and his cousin, the Prince of Peace? And six little ones in Florida owe their lives to their not-yet-big sister. Oh, baby!

Applicable quote of the day:
"Babies are always more trouble than you thought- and more wonderful."
Charles Osgood

To listen to one of the greatest pop songs ever, Dusty Springfield sing Wishin' and Hopin' click below!

God bless,
Luke 18:1

E-mail me at