Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Tongues Of Men And Angels


After our study of the Sermon On The Mount, my juniors took a one period detour and looked at love from 1st Corinthians 13. So much of the Sermon On The Mount deals with the motives for our actions; Paul addresses the same issue at the beginning of his beautiful treatise:
"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing." (verses 1-3)
As I do often, I had my students put similar thoughts in their own vernacular, framing them with their own points of references. As they always do, they displayed a fascinating-and sometimes startling mature- grasp of life. As examples, I read samples from my students nine years ago. Those now twenty-five year olds did such a good job, I thought I would show them again. Boys are in blue, girls are in pink, and all were used by example.

"If I do community service but don't help out around the house, the community does not need me." Dominique

"If I contribute $1,000 to the church but feel annoyed to give one cent to a beggar, it's not real love." Jeewha


"If I say I love my mom but I don't obey her, I don't really love her." Hernani

"If I help a special needs child and then make fun of him behind his back, I have no love for him." Parker


"If I say I love my friends but I talk about them behind their back, I might as well have no friends." Veronica

"If you go to church but only do it because your parents make you and when you get there, you just text your friends, you might as well not have gone." Stephanie


"If I call out those who are evil but only to shame them, I should have just stayed quiet." Kenny

"If I say I love my friends but let them do wrong when they are with me, I am not showing that I love them." Kevin


"If I donate food but want nothing to do with the kids in Africa and other poor places, I should not donate anything." Sydney


"If I expect my friend to invite me to her party but criticize it when it's over, I should just stay at home." Jessica


"If I am sweet to girls my age but disrespectful to my mother, why am I stopping short?" Cameron

"If I am president of the National Honor Society but I won't help tutor other students, I might as well let someone else lead." Nicholas


Applicable quote of the day:
"Jesus is not impressed in our success in anything over than love."
Shawn Bolz



God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Lines Of Confusion

Basketball season is long, even in middle school. It's not as long as the high school season which is never ending, adding in camps and summer leagues and AAU. When I was the varsity girls' coach at WCS, we played 41 games. condensed into little more than four months. But even with only 17 games on the calendar this season, our middle school girls practice every school day so we run the risk of experiencing something I never faced when playing in high school or college: BOREDOM. Coaches have basic skills they need to teach but this can be accomplished in a myriad of drills and situations. Most coaches have drills they really like to excess but of course, this can become extremely repetitive. This time of year, I like to introduce a couple of new drills every week or so. Last Thursday, I decided to add one drill called Celtic Passing. It combines passing/catching/cutting/communication/conditioning/layups. But when you do something brand new, you have to have someone to demonstrate it. Before we began our practice, I called over Kaitlin, Kayla, and Shelby, three of our more experienced players, to go over the drill so they could model it for the other kids. To help them understand, I used the tool basketball coaches lean on, the marker board. Illustrated above is the drill. Black represents the players and spots on the floor they will run to after passing. Pink lines indicate where the players run after they pass. Orange lines simulate the movement of the ball around the court. Looks pretty simple, doesn't it? And it is for a coach. But when I asked the girls their reaction, Kaitlin replied with the following:
"Coach, all those lines are confusing."

 I thought it was 1-2-3/A-B-C/do-re-mi to quote the Jackson Five. But I'm not an eighth grade girl, either.

You know, when we put the young ladies on the court and walked through it initially, followed by full speed repetitions, we picked it up quite easily. We even quickly mastered one of the hardest parts of some drills, when you reverse directions and go to the right instead of the left. But looking at the final product simply made no sense to Shelby, Kayla, and Kaitlin. It was to them simply a spider web of basketball theory with no real relation to the sport itself. That is a metaphor, in my mind, of the Christian walk. It has to be taken one step at a time, by faith, with a general knowledge of where we are headed without the clarity that years and decades will provide. I see my life in that diagram. I can looking back comprehend that this step led me to that spot from where I launched out to the next location and I ended up here and who knows where I'll land in the future. We aren't promised 20/20 vision on this adventure but we have the Guide who knows our destination. When I had my Lasik surgery, I immediately realized what I had been missing as objects came into much better focus. My thought is we have those moments of realization as we travel our days on earth but there is always the next trial, the next heartache, the next triumph. We'll absorb the whole mural of our existence some day but for now, it's just one line at a time, from point A to point B. And like Kaitlin said, that can be confusing.

Applicable quote of  the day:
Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood. 

Henry Miller

God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Long And Winding Road


In Saturday night's entry, I spoke of WCS  commemorating the contributions of Robert O. McCloy by naming our gymnasium, where he laid the foundation of our basketball success, in his honor. It was a glorious afternoon, filled with friends and alumni, food and memories, basketball victories and recognizing the role of Bob McCloy in keeping Westbury Christian School alive when it was going down for the count. I tell my classes that buildings are named after those who fall into one of two groups, fabulously wealthy or dead. Bob McCloy does not fit into either subset although he has, as Jesus put it nicely, treasure laid up in heaven.

I greatly enjoyed myself during my four hours at the celebration. I caught up with Bob's son in law, Robert Sain, who I worked with at basketball camps in Nashville when he was a student assistant for Lipscomb University's legendary Don Meyer.  For at least half an hour, I reminisced with Isaac Apenteng, one of my favorite all-time students whose brother, Joseph, and sister, Victoria, fall into that same category. It was also a joy to spend time with Greg Glenn, who I've known since working at those same Lipscomb camps beginning in 1983. Greg was my contact for moving to Houston nineteen years ago. He and his family now reside in Nashville where he is the head of school for Lipscomb Academy. I was often with the Glenns during our sixteen shared years at WCS and I worked in the mission field with Greg, his wife Loa, and children Amber, Richard, and Cody who also were my students. Small schools are family affairs.

Many former students wanted to speak with Greg who served Westbury Christian as boy's basketball coach, athletic director, math teacher, and ultimately, the head of school. But it was the last one who caught my attention. A gentleman approached Greg as we stood in the reception area. He confided where he was now in terms of business and personal life with some current information about his extended family as well. As he went on, he passionately related to Greg how much WCS had meant to him and how our school had influenced his life. Ever the administrator, Greg encouraged his former pupil to reconnect with WCS and even more, to become involved and tell his story to others who could benefit as much as he did. After he had said his good-byes, Greg told me something that I found fascinating. The former student had not graduated from our school. On the contrary, he had exited on less than ideal terms although Greg was not sure of all the details. And yet, even though he is not technically an alumnus, the man feels a kinship to Westbury Christian in spite of the situation surrounding his departure. My guess is that it took time, maybe quite a bit of time, for that recognition to set in.


As always, we will cover the Parable of the Sower this year in all five of my classes. One point I make is that we are mistaken if we believe we know who fits the description of the thorns, the rocks, the path, or the coveted good soil. Maybe it takes years for the good soil to come out of hibernation. Sometimes when we discuss Jesus' teaching, I will pick one youngster and have them tell me what kind of soil they perceive each classmate to be. Of course, they only say good soil because they don't want to come off as a jerk. But maybe that's a good lesson for all of us. I think the odds would be that the teachers of that student I referenced would have put in him in the negative soil descriptions, but it looks like they may have been wrong. When Jesus sent out 72 missionaries to places He would visit, I think they were getting the soil ready for the seed, which stood for the word of God; plow, water, fertilize. That's when the seed has the best chance to thrive and produce a terrific harvest. And maybe that's what our school did a quarter of a century ago. Thank God we aren't all judged simply on our teenage years. I need to remind myself of that every day as I help prepare the next generation of soil.

Applicable quote of the day:
“When God is ready for you to move, He will make your situation uncomfortable.” 
Germany Kent

God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Real. Comfortable. Jeans.




It's amazing what makes middle school girls happy! This is from January 25, 2013.
I just walked in from our girls' high school basketball game versus Fort Bend Christian. It was a good game but the Eagles, now 35-0, defeated our WCS squad which plays very hard. Something was different about me tonight, though, at least to the seven girls on my middle school team who also were in the crowd. They all came over to see me just because........I was wearing blue jeans. They were giving me high fives and telling their friends because none of them had ever seen me in Levis, which I happened to purchase several weeks ago using a gift card that had been a Christmas present from one of the players. I can't tell you why I stopped wearing jeans years ago but my awesome sister-in-law Sally told me at Christmas I needed to buy a pair and I always listen to Sally. My players were so excited- I'm not sure why- but one of them said something I won't soon forget:
"Coach, we've never seen you wear real clothes before!"

This is what is amazing; I wear the very same thing every morning to practice with the exception of shorts instead of the aforementioned blue jeans. And yet that one alteration left a bunch of 6-8th graders in shock.....and ecstatic! 

We don't always realize how much others notice the changes in us. How about something that is eternally important when we are kinder or more patient or increase our generosity? What if we clothe ourselves in righteousness instead of a new pair of pants? We could really change the world if we simply change more than our jeans. Tonight's title is from a Brett Favre television commercial for Wrangler's. Maybe I'll start a few pickup football games in the mud wearing my new jeans. Maybe I'll get rich and famous like Brett and get commercials of my own! Or maybe, I can just improve the characteristics of me that need alterations. There's never a back order when we put on Christ- and He always fits.

Applicable quote of the day:
"Guys will take one pair of jeans, five T-shirts and three pair of socks and that'll get you by for 10 weeks."

God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

Saturday, January 14, 2017

And Who Are You?


It was a good day at Westbury Christian School. Both our girls' and boys' varsity basketball teams won their early afternoon games versus St. Agnes and Emery-Weiner, respectively, with a good crowd in attendance. But the reason for the uncommon matinee schedule was the dedication of our gymnasium, renaming it in honor of long-time WCS board member/basketball coach/head of school, Robert O. McCloy. Bob was credited in the ceremony for saving our school when it was on the verge of closing roughly thirty years ago, standing up in a parents' meeting when the trustees announced the doors were being shut forever. There would have been no today at WCS if not for that day. Bob hired me nineteen years ago, convincing me to come to Houston, a move I could never have foreseen. Over the years, I found him to be incredibly insightful, seeing trends and possibilities it took me several more years to comprehend. During my time here, I've been blessed to teach four of his grandkids and work with his wonderful daughter, Kelly, who is the administrative assistant in our athletic department. Like I said, today was a blessing for those in the Wildcat family.

During our girls' game, I was standing with Mike White, our current head of school, a bit removed from the baseline. Mike came to WCS one year before I did. We've taught together, coached together, and done mission work together. When I say Mike has filled every position at WCS except cafeteria chef, it isn't much of a stretch. As we talked, a good number of others were mingling in the area. A gentleman who I took as an alumnus pre-dating the two of us stopped adjacent to Mike, who extended his hand. The gentleman asked, "And who are you?" I kind of turned away and grinned. Mike was gracious and introduced himself to the stranger. In his defense, the guy we didn't know was in no way being obnoxious or jerkish- he just was curious about the identity of Mike, who was resplendent in his Joseph A. Bank suit/shirt/tie. Mike and I shared a laugh later- maybe he needs to start wearing his name-tag to all of our school functions!

Who are you? It's a legitimate question. This week, I was walking down our intermediary hallway and a lady asked me if I was the baseball coach. I was once- not here- but I explained that distinction belonged to Coach Smith. Maybe I seemed like a coach to her! A long time ago, the religious leaders asked John the Baptist who he was and he had an answer. Well, first he had to clarify who he wasn't- the Christ, Elijah, the Prophet. But when he did answer, he answered by quoting the words of Isaiah 40:3, that he was the voice of one calling in the wilderness. That's a pretty good source for identification. What would I say if I was asked my identity? I'm a coach? I'm a teacher? Actually, I like the Monkees' musical answer: "I'm a believer!" I can't just be a name- there are at least twenty other men in the US with my name and I know because I wrote a blog about it years ago. I just can't be a title based on an occupation- those roles are temporary. My life must be defined by my relationship to the Lord. Nothing else matters. I was thrilled for Bob today in having a building named in his honor, an honor most never receive, especially when they still walk among the living. But today's recognition for one Robert O. McCloy  happened ultimately because of the eternal name that he bears; child of God. We might want to add those three words to the plaque. 

Applicable quote of the day:
“Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.” 
 Brennan Manning


God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

Friday, January 13, 2017

Shel And Sylvia....And Her Mother



A post about one of my favorite songs of all time, from January 7, 2013.

I'm not sure why but I've always had a weakness for love songs where it did not quite work out happily ever after, songs like Patsy Cline's She's Got You, Bread's Diary, Three Dog Night's Pieces Of April, etc. One of my favorites has always been Sylvia's Mother by Dr. Hook and The Medicine Show. (Remember when bands had legitimate names?) It tells a story of a guy trying one last time to  plead with his ex- who is leaving to get married and the girl's mom won't put her on the phone. It turns out the song was written by Shel Silverstein who I thought only wrote childrens' books. Silverstein also penned big hits A Boy Named Sue for Johnny Cash and Cover Of The Rolling Stone which was another smash for Dr. Hook. It also turns out that Sylvia's Mother was autobiographical. There really was a Sylvia and Shel really did love her and she really was getting married and he really did call and talk to her mom. There were a few changes. In the song, Sylvia was going to Galveston to get married instead of Mexico and her last name was Avery instead of Pandolfi which did not fit into the rhyme scheme. The telephone encounter actually took place in the mid 1960's but became immortalized in the first hit record of Dr. Hook in 1972. I've posted two youtube clips, with the first one being the actual music video. The second are interviews made thirty years after Sylvia's Mother with both Sylvia and her mom interspersed with the song. (I do need to warn you there is a profanity in the interview clip.)

It's amazing how things we think are inconsequential turn out to be life altering. None of the three principles in this story could have imagined that from it would come one of the best known songs of the 1970's or that this phone exchange would symbolize heartbreak to many young men. (Is there any guy out there who never went through a painful telephone exchange over a young lady?) I also wonder if it might have mattered to the real life Sylvia if she could have known the young man would become famous or if she could have known her name would become synonymous with rejection. In real life, Sylvia has also become well-known apart from the song whose origin has only become  publicized in the past decade after Shel's death. I think it's interesting how Sylvia and Mrs. Pandolfi had slightly different takes on their relationship than what is presented in the song. I once read a quote that said, and I'm paraphrasing here, that truth and memory are related but not identical. God gives us the ability to remember and interpret and to learn from our mistakes. Who knows if Sylvia regrets not choosing Shel or if Shel was glad in the long run to come out second. That's what makes life enjoyable- we won't find out about tomorrow until tomorrow.... and we know tomorrow has enough trouble of its own.

Applicable quote of the day:
“Moving on is easy. It's staying moved on that's trickier.”
Katerina Stoykova Klemer

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

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Silvia And Shirts




It's been weeks since I ventured into my favorite store here in Houston. This is about why I shop there! It's from January 6, 2013.
I spent some time in my nearby Jos A Bank store yesterday morning. One of my Christmas presents was a Jos A Bank Traveler's Collection oxford dress shirt, blue with very small white checks. (In case you're interested, my size is 15 1/2- 34!) There was a slight problem- I already had the identical shirt. Jos A Bank has a customer friendly return policy so I knew it would be easy to swap, even though my gift was purchased in a different location. I ended getting one with the identical pattern only the blue background is replaced by tan. I plan on wearing it on our first day back to school which is Tuesday. You have to show off the Christmas clothes!


There was an anxious moment at the store on Saturday, though. When I walked in, I didn't see Silvia. Another sales associate asked if they could be of service but I asked for Silvia. The gentleman told me she was in the back and went back and told her a customer was asking for her. Big relief for me! You see, I don't go in unless Silvia is working. I've even found out her schedule- evenings from five until close and Saturdays- I'm pretty sure when she's available for my fashion consultation. She knows my sizes and the clothes I've bought and what I like. She makes suggestions but she makes me feel like I'm in charge of the decision. We talked about the holidays- she filled me in on her two sons and two grandchildren and I told her about my travels to Kansas and Arkansas. I feel like she's family. Right before Christmas break, we were coming back from a game and I needed to check on a back order so I took in the three sixth graders with me- Mallory, Sydney, Lizeth- and introduced them as my daughters. Silvia loved it.

Let me say that the other folks who work at this Jos A Bank location are terrific- I just feel comfortable putting myself in Silvia's care. What's interesting to me is that she simply was the first person who waited on me during my first visit sixteen months ago. I think there's a lesson for us as believers. People aren't attracted to Jesus because of advertisements or programs or services- they are attracted to Him because of Christians who take an interest in them and their lives. There is invariably a relationship involved. I heard an interesting story on a religious radio station yesterday. The preacher related how he met a guy through their son's Little League and he taught him about Jesus. When the new friend was ready to be baptized, some objected to the preacher baptizing the man as that was the domain of the Baptism Team, something I've never heard of. The minister rightly made the point that he had the relationship with the man and would do the immersion. I'm not here to go off on a tangent about baptism but to remind us that the two men had something in common- sons and baseball- before it got around to Jesus. We can be so much more effective if we remember that being like Silvia can attract the lost to The Lord. You see, Silvia knows not just what I need and also what's good for me but she lets me move at my own pace. Maybe she should write a book on soul winning; I'd buy it!

Applicable quote of the day
“I wear brown shirts to protect against the combination of coffee and clumsiness.” 


God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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