Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Jewel

Last Christmas, I wrote a blog about Jenson and how she was concerned she got more presents than Baby Jesus got from the wise men. This is about her earlier life, from  2012.

I held Jenson for the first time today. As soon as I walked into Dave and Sally's house this morning, she was thrust into my arms and remained peacefully for thirty minutes. Jenson, the four month old first child of Ben and Courtney, is my great niece. She is good natured, blue eyed, and I am delighted to be genetically linked to this little angel. And according to the word on the street, Jenson smells incredibly good. As I held her, I thought about the last hymn in our church song book when I was little, # 600 in Great Songs Of The Church

When He cometh, when He cometh
To make up His jewels,
All His jewels, precious jewels,
His loved and His own.


Like the stars of the morning,
His brightness adorning,
They shall shine in their beauty,
Bright gems for His crown.

He will gather, He will gather
The gems for His kingdom;
All the pure ones, all the bright ones,
His loved and His own.

Little children, little children,
Who love their Redeemer,
Are the jewels, precious jewels,
His loved and His own.

When He Cometh was written by William Cushing, a Disciples of Christ minister, in 1856. Cushing penned it for the children in his congregation
and he perfectly describes the youngest among us as precious  jewels. That's as close to a flawless definition as there can be about Jenson, who is named in honor of Courtney's family. She's a blessed baby. Jenson is descended from families who honor marriage and most importantly, who honor God. She will be raised with stability and an overwhelming blanket of love. Jenson will grow up to be a servant to humanity and a child of the king because that is what she will be taught every day of her life. What a Thanksgiving blessing Jenson is for her parents/grandparents/aunts/uncles/cousins this November. I grieve for those babies who will never glimpse the wonderful life she will lead. 

Applicable quote of the day:
This is a place where grandmothers hold babies on their laps under the stars and whisper in their ears that the lights in the sky are holes in the floor of heaven.”
Rick Bragg

God bless,

Luke 18:1
E-mail me at

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Guide

Since writing this more than seven years ago, I have succumbed and now am the happy owner of a GARMIN! This is from July 16, 2009.

On Sunday night, I accompanied Scott and Karen to their small group worship at a home of their friends with Scott arriving in his pickup truck, coming from a deacons' meeting. Riding home with Karen, I became intrigued with their Magellan GPS system. Karen explained that you type in your destination address and the Magellan leads the driver along the path with voice commands. It dings before you are supposed to turn and if you miss your street, it reprograms your route from that spot. It's powered by a series of satellites and a mathematical concept called trilateration, which calculates the position of any activated receiver on earth. The system is also affordable, coming in at about $100. If you know me, you understand that one of my endearing qualities is the ability to become lost between any potential points A and B. I've graduated from the old folding state-by-state maps and road atlases to the much more specific mapblast and mapquest. The problem with printed step-by-step Internet directions is that you have to read them when driving, which is complicated further with the onset of darkness. Technology is not my strength but even I could probably handle the instructions for using a GPS system. There's only one obstacle delaying my venture into the satellite directional universe- $100 plus tax.

Do you ever wonder where you are going in life? I woke up at 4:00 this morning (I am sleeping at Dave and Sally's) and pondered where my life is heading. I'm positive that I'm not the only searcher in that phase of existence. Fortunately, we are not left without a sense of spiritual direction as we navigate life's highway. David writes in Psalm 23:3 that,
"He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
In Psalm 119:105, the value of God's teachings is extolled:
"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path." 
Jesus assures his apostles, and us, with the wonderful promise of the Holy Spirit. At the end of His ministry, the Savior comforts his inner circle in John 16:13 with this thought:
"But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come."
I need that sense of direction in my life. Getting lost in my Toyota is one thing. Getting lost on the path that determines my eternal destination is quite another. Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, taught the importance of having the correct course plotted for our lives. The Master preached, in Matthew 7:14, that, 
"small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." 
Like I said, I get lost easily but that's one turn I can't afford to miss. I need the spiritual ding ding dings!

Applicable quote of the day:
"Most versed in nautical charts, he (Magellan) knew better than any other the true art of navigation, of which it is certain proof that he by his genius, and his intrepidity, without anyone having given him the example, how to attempt the circuit of the globe which he had almost completed... The glory of Magellan will survive him."

Antonio Pigafetta

God bless,
Luke 18:1
E-mail me at

Monday, September 26, 2016

ID Number

NFL rosters turn over quickly! Churches' rosters probably should not. This is from September 20, 2012.

My three Gospels' classes on Tuesday took notes over the baptism of Jesus in preparation for Test # 3 which we took yesterday. We made the points that John the Baptist came preaching repentance and baptism for forgiveness of sins and that he did not want to baptize Jesus. We noted that Jesus told His cousin that it should be done to fulfill all righteousness. We observed that in His baptism, Jesus can identify with sinful humanity and that according to Romans 6:4, we identify with Jesus  when we are baptized. To illustrate the point, I asked how many of the students owned Houston Texans football jerseys; a good number did. Then, I asked whose names were on the backs of those jerseys. Here were the responses- Matt Schaub, Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, JJ Watt. If you are an NFL fan, you know these guys play the glory positions of quarterback-running back-wide receiver except for Watt who is rapidly making a name for himself as a pass deflecting machine. (I asked who was the starting center on the Texans offensive line. Not one youngster knew the correct answer, Chris Myers!) It's obvious. These students are fans and picked the jerseys of their favorite players who they identify with.

As I thought about our discussion after school, I pondered the thought about Jesus identifying with sinful humanity through His baptism. I struggle with the concept that this includes me because I know my weaknesses and I know Jesus, when tempted, never succumbed. Just how far would He have to stoop to be at my level? To carry out the football analogy, would He wear my lowly name on His jersey? The Lord says in Isaiah 49:16 that,
 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
That verse give me great comfort! Our God not only knows me, my name is ever before Him! I mentioned to my classes that famous athletes must be embarrassed to see the way some of the wearers of their jerseys behave. Well, that would not happen if Jesus wore my jersey! Instead, it might mirror the words of the old hymn, 
Jesus And Shall It Ever Be:
Ashamed of Jesus! That dear Friend
On whom my hopes of Heav’n depend!
No; when I blush, be this my shame,
That I no more revere His Name.
Most likely, I have a considerable amount of blushing to do.

Applicable quote of the day:
The difference between the old ballplayer and the new ballplayer is the jersey. The old ballplayer cared about the name on the front. The new ballplayer cares about the name on the back."

God bless,
Luke 18:1
E-mail me at

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Silent Type

My eighth graders took their third test two days ago on Friday in Bible. We spend the whole year on the Gospel of Luke with little side ventures into Matthew for the Sermon on the Mount and other New Testament books for memory verses. Part of the exam covered the story of Jesus in Jerusalem at age twelve. We mentioned the normal things. Joseph and Mary found Him in the temple where He was speaking to the amazed religious leaders. We talked of how His mother appeared the more upset of the two parents, and asking her son why He had treated them in that manner. I point out that Mary said your father referring to Joseph but the response of Jesus' my Father referred to God. I also add notes on things I think they would not know. I tell them Luke 2:49, the My Father reference, is the first time Jesus is quoted in the Bible. We also learn that this story is the last time Joseph is mentioned as being alive in the scriptures and how scholars believe he died at a young age. There really isn't a whole lot to tell!

There was one more thing I had the kiddos write or type into their notes, depending on their preference: Joseph is never quoted in the Bible. That's right- never. Not one word, phrase, or utterance. I tell my classes I believe God chose Joseph as carefully as Mary to be His earthly father. At least in childhood, Jesus would have spent more time with Joseph than any other adult male, undoubtedly learning the carpentry trade from him. But there are no revealed conversations or tidbits of advice and I have no clue as to why. And yet, in three of the four Gospels, a question is quoted about Jesus: 
"Isn't this Joseph's son?"
The crowd obviously knew who Joseph was. I'm sure he swelled with pride as do most dads when their children make good choices and stand out in times of moral questions. Who on earth would have known Joseph wasn't the biological dad but Mary? But surely it didn't matter as he raised him as his own. He saw and heard the angel and the shepherds and the wise men and Anna and Simeon in the temple early in his son's life. He took Him to Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod and where we started tonight, Joseph took his son to the Passover when was twelve, the beginning of manhood. Then.........nothing and we are left to wonder about details. It doesn't really matter because Joseph quietly fulfilled his very unique role in the redemption of mankind. He  didn't see Jesus die, but more crucially, he helped teach Him how to live. And there has never been a better definition of a dad to me.

Applicable quote of the day: 
One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters. 
George Herbert

God bless,
Luke 18:1
E-mail me at

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Don't Go Changing...

I wrote this piece seven school years ago about these awesome young ladies! I miss them!

If you are a student in my classes, you know I think Jessica Alba is beautiful. So, when a headline popped up with her name on it last week, I had to look. It seems a young lady in China is desperate to win back the affections of her boyfriend. Her former significant other is obsessed with the American actress and apparently thinks and speaks of little else. The young lady, whose name is Xiaoqing, has seen plastic surgeons, intent on making herself, as much as possible, look like Ms. Alba. To her credit, Jessica, through the media, has made overtures to Xiaoqing, imploring her not to go under the knife just to satisfy the whims of her ex. And being that Jessica's ethnic background is a mixture of Danish, French Canadian, and Mexican-American, I am guessing an exact double is out of the question.

You might have noticed the two young ladies at the top of this entry. Their names are Taylor, in front, and Jeannie, respectively. They are sophomores in my sixth period Gospels class and they are sweethearts; young ladies like these two are jewels. We have a quiz-memory verse-test- writing assignment each period so they are turning in something to me every day. I'm not sure how it began but Taylor and Jeannie started writing lyrics to songs they like on the outside of all their papers. It might be the chorus, a whole verse, or just a line and their preferences in style are wide ranging. I have to admit that often I don't know the song they reference but I always put their papers to the side and read their musical treatise when I have made it through all the others. It's become part of our relationship as teacher-students and it may seem silly but education is founded on countless of these interactions. Several weeks ago, either Taylor or Jeannie left the words of an Ingrid Michaelson song on their paper for me to ponder. I don't know much about Ms. Michaelson but the last phrase in each chorus is rock solid:
You take me the way I am. 
Too bad Xiaoqing can't share those sentiments with her boyfriend.

One thing we constantly note in my classes is the ease with which Jesus interacted with the lower echelons of society- the tax collectors, the sexually immoral, the physically afflicted, the poor. Part of His appeal had to be based on His willingness to accept people at their point in life. Needed changes would come by their proximity to the Savior. Sometimes, a miracle of healing intervened with a broken body and spirit but more often, the love the Christ showered on the unlovely and the unloved evoked a new life. As believers, we should be repulsed by sin but not by sinners; a quick look in the mirror would cause revulsion if we did. I wish all my students were like Taylor and Jeannie, but they're not. At least, they aren't there yet. Change is gradual and the most lasting change does not come from a surgeon's scalpel. It is born from the touch of the Master's hand.

To hear Ingrid Michaelson sing The Way I Am, please click the link below:

Applicable quote of the day:
“There's no such thing as a perfect guy. I think it would be strange if somebody was absolutely everything you always wanted, because then there'd be no challenge. Also, you'd feel inferior.”

Jessica Alba

God bless,
Luke 18:1
me at

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Fan

The Houston Rockets had their Media Day today, meaning the NBA season is not far off! This is about a former Rocket and hero to many! It is from February 9, 2012.
Harry is a basketball junkie. More specifically, Harry is addicted to the NBA, maybe more than any student I've ever taught. A young man in my sixth period Gospels' class, Harry can tell you EVERYTHING related to the National Basketball Association. Today, Harry was excited about a relatively unknown basketball player who has been in the news this past week. Jeremy Lin has been in the lineup for the New York Knicks for the most recent three games and the struggling Knicks have won all three of the contests. It's a fascinating story. Lin, who is one of only a couple of Harvard players to ever make it to the NBA, has been living in his brother's apartment and sleeping on his couch. In this three game stretch, the undrafted Lin (Harvard class of 2010)has averaged about twenty-five points each night and a good number of assists. But the story is much more than statistics. You see, Jeremy Lin is the first American born NBA player to be descended from Chinese/Taiwanese stock. (His parents emigrated from Taiwan while Lin also has kin in China.) He has become an overnight media sensation. I read a blurb tonight on a sports' website that the Knicks games are going to be broadcast in Asia where the appetite for Lin coverage would be enormous. The Knicks have some players who are returning to the team after injuries and family issues so it will be interesting to see where the story is headed but it's been at least a great three day ride! In a season almost lost to a labor dispute, heart warming themes are, well, heart warming.

And that's where Harry comes in. You see, Harry is not just a basketball fanatic, he's also Chinese. Today, he asked if I could pray that Jeremy Lin would be successful in the NBA, a request I was honored to honor. Harry picked a good guy to cheer for. On Wikipedia, I read that Jeremy Lin is a devout Christian who wants to go into the ministry when his basketball career is finished. What a platform for the Lord he is building; hoop skills, an avalanche of followers, and a relationship with Jesus Christ. And, lest we forget, he has one big time fan in my sixth period Gospels class! It might not be exactly scriptural but GO KNICKS!

Applicable quote of the day:
“I’m not anything flashy and I’m not a freakish athlete. I’m just having fun.”
Jeremy Lin

God bless,
Luke 18:1
E-mail me at

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Nicest Thing

As I've mentioned before, I give a bonus on everything we do in my Bible classes, from tests to memory verses to quizzes. On tests, we make cards for folks who are struggling or ill or bereaved. For quizzes and memory verses, it's usually a random thing like what's the most common last name in Denmark or where did Stop In the Name Of Love end up in the Billboard charts in 1965? The kids love it, sometimes being more excited about getting the bonus right than making an A on their paper! Sometimes, I make the bonus a prayer request or write a compliment about someone in their class with whom they aren't close. Today, the bonus was this: 
Write out in sentence form the nicest thing anyone has ever said to you with context and who was the speaker. 
I gave several examples from my life and why they were meaningful to me. All but two or three kids in my classes participated- it's never mandatory but I tell them if they don't do the bonus, they aren't trying to help themselves. I was pleased with today's results, especially with the 8th graders who had a more difficult assignment, the first verse of Tell Me The Story Of Jesus. One thing I hope to gain in these exercises is a better perspective of where my students are coming from and that happened this Wednesday. I feel like I know these youngsters better than I did yesterday.

In my five academic classes this year, I have twelve of my current and former middle school basketball players. Some of them have spent three years on my team so they have heard most of what I have to say, on both the court and in Room 258. And as I read the bonus answers, I found an intriguing response. One of the wonderful young ladies who has played for me wrote the nicest compliment she had received was! It had to do with a huddle late in a contest and I had told the squad the only reason we were still in the game was that this
girl had knocked the ball out of an opponent's hands. There was a little more detail but that was the gist of her memory. And what was my memory of her memory? Nothing- I didn't remember it although I vaguely recall the game she recalled. That's the price you pay for coaching in so many games over the years, both in basketball and baseball. They run together like a kaleidoscope .... but they don't to the kids, especially, I'm convinced, girls. They have memories like steel traps which of course, is a blessing or a curse. In this case, it was a blessing.

The longer I live, the more I am aware of the power of words. Teachers, coaches, parents, and other adults in authority have at their disposal the opportunity to make deposits in the confidence accounts of youngsters. I'm not talking about the false praise that seems to be pervasive in our society for everything little thing- some things should be so automatic as not to ever require reinforcement. In preparing my students for the bonus question, I quoted Mark Twain's line about living a month on a good compliment, (although in the original I found he actually said two weeks.) Better still is the truth of Proverbs 25 and verse 11:
Like golden apples set in silver is a word spoken at the right time.
Timing, along with sincerity, is everything. But if I don't remember saying those kind words to my player, I'm also sure I'm unaware of many times my words have cut and wounded those who I should have been guiding. If that was you I hurt, please forgive me and know I have tried to do better. And if you made my day in the past with your kind words towards me, THANKS! And I will try to pass them on to those who need them most.

Applicable quote of the day:
You have to love yourself or you'll never be able to accept compliments from anyone. 
Dean Wareham

God bless,
Luke 18:1
E-mail me at