Wednesday, March 03, 2021

The List

 The List


One of the hard parts of life is when we don't get chosen. It's a part of life in every school. It can be a life lesson but it is still painful to watch. The following is from October 17, 2006.

It was posted outside the high school office this afternoon. Like many schools have done, Westbury Christian has made separate squads for football and basketball, due to the length of the seasons and the number of girls participating in numerous extracurriculars. Seventeen girls tried out for the basketball cheerleading squad; only eleven names were listed. There is no perfect way to handle the announcement because some will cry for joy and some will sob in pain. Our sponsors deal with the girls as gently as possible but feelings still get bruised. We have had a number of tryouts recently. This afternoon, the girls' soccer team had tryouts. Yesterday saw auditions for the school talent show. Several weeks back were readings for roles in the fall semester drama production. The selection process is a daily part of life in the school culture. In a small school such as WCS, students have great opportunities to be involved but it can come at the discretion of the coach, director, or sponsor. It's the least favorite part of coaching for me, deciding who gets a uniform and who has to wait and try again. I must make a confession: at times, I have delayed the decision, hoping the child will make the choice herself. In a sense, it's easier if the player comes to the conclusion but there is also a cowardly element for the coach. I am not proud of myself.

In my Bible classes this week, we have been talking about the calling by Jesus of the twelve apostles. The Savior went off by himself and prayed before he made his final cut. We aren't told how many were in the running or the reactions of either the elected or declined. Although none of the Gospels list criterion for being accepted into the group, Mark 3:14-15 says Jesus selected the one dozen disciples so they could be involved in two areas of ministry: preaching and driving out demons. Some good men were obviously left behind. Did they still listen and follow even though they weren't part of the inner circle? Did they leave and pursue a new 'messiah?' Did some return to the trailblazer of the wilderness, John the Baptist? Maybe the Lord had other purposes in mind for those who didn't make the varsity that day. I remind my middle school players that many girls who played for me didn't suit up for games their first year but they never gave up. Jesus prayed the night previous to the posting of his squad. I prayed as well before revealing my decision to my junior high girls. I hope it was easier for Jesus than it was for me.


Applicable quote of the day:
"Either love your players or get out of coaching."
Bobby Dodd/ Georgia Tech football coach



God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Something Stupid

 Something Stupid

Our father died almost thirteen years ago. It's amazing what things stick with us, isn't it? This is about my dad and a song, from the first week of January, 2010.

By the grace of God and leaving frigid (11 degrees F, - 4 wind chill) Wichita, Kansas at 4 AM Saturday morning, I am back in balmy (58 F) Houston, Texas. I had a terrific holiday, shuttling back and forth between my brothers' homes and spending time with their families. Back to work on January 4th, the first school day of the decade!


I keep discovering things that remind me of my parents in their absence. Driving through Dallas yesterday, I caught myself listening to 96.7 FM on the dial, a typical oldies station. They played a song I hadn't heard in decades, Something Stupid, a duet by father/daughter Frank and Nancy Sinatra. The song spent four weeks at the number one spot in the Billboard Top 40. What I remember most, though, was my father's disapproval of the hook line of the song:
''And then I go and spoil it all by saying something stupid, like 'I Love You.' ''
It was inconceivable to Dad that anyone could believe that 'I love you' was ever an inappropriate thing to vocalize. I felt sorry for Nancy Sinatra. Once, I saw a spoof in MAD Magazine called, 'Extremely Thin Books.' One book in the collection was entitled, "How I Got So Far On My Own Ability.'' The alleged author of the fictional work was Ms. Sinatra, the implication being that her career was only made possible through her father's connections. But besides Something Stupid, Frank's daughter also had hits with Sugar Town and the notorious, These Boots Are Made For Walking. There had to be some market for her musical stylings!

I don't think I ever told my dad but I kind of liked Something Stupid. What struck me is that it speaks of an awkward situation most of us have found ourselves in. Sometimes, we like someone romantically and they don't feel the same. Sometimes, someone has feelings for us that we don't reciprocate. Either way, it's uncomfortable... and that's the gist of Something Stupid. I don't think the song meant that the sentiment was wrong, just that the timing was terrible. What a blessing we have in our relationship with God and His Son that their love IS always reciprocal. Their timing is never off and it cannot be awkward or uncomfortable. We never have to worry that it's a one way sentiment or that we are about to get dumped or devastated. And, there is always time. The first line of the song mourns that,
''I know I stand in line until you think you have the time to spend an evening with me.''
No standing in line with our Creator. We have unlimited spiritual access and that is a sign of a wonderful love. I wish Dad were still alive to see how he inspired my entry tonight. Maybe he would have listened to the song with a slightly different ear. He once preached a sermon from the Harry Chapin classic, ''Cats In The Cradle.'' I'm sure Dad could have made Frank and Nancy into a teaching point. And there's nothing stupid about that.

To hear Frank and Nancy sing Something Stupid, click here!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0f48fpoSEPU

Applicable quote of the day:
''Love is the silent saying and saying of a single name.''

Mignon McLaughlin

God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

Monday, March 01, 2021

In Praise Of Donuts

 In Praise Of Donuts

 What I miss the most with COVID is interactions with students. Sometimes, the ones who leave an impression do so in unpredictable ways . This is from April 24, 2010.

At Westbury Christian School, each department in the upper school has specific test days. Mine, as Bible instructor, are Wednesdays and Fridays. The purpose of specified days is to limit the number of tests a student might face on any particular day. This year, I've given most of my tests on Fridays. It gives me the weekend to grade the one hundred twenty or so exams as well as allowing me to plan for the next week of classes while the kids take the tests. Our schedule is unique in that we have eight class periods while most high school not on block scheduling only have seven. Our extra period is due to the requirement that all WCS students take a Bible class each semester. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we have chapel in the morning for twenty-five minutes. On Monday-Wednesday-Friday, we have SACT in the corresponding slot, a time set aside for class/club meetings, tutoring, or socializing. My three Gospels classes, primarily sophomores with a mixture of juniors and seniors sprinkled in, all meet after SACT. This year, I have had a study session on test days during SACT. That is the picture above, taken yesterday morning. Friday's tutoring group was truly international. Of the eleven students who participated, five are from Vietnam, one is Korean, one hails from Cameroon, one is Thai, and three are Americans. As you can see, our school has an international flavor!

Here is an interesting stat, at least to me. Seven or eight of those youngsters currently carry a 99-100% average grade in my class. We typically have six to seven grades per week so it's based on a large sample. This begs the question: do these kids come to the review because they have extremely high grades or do they have extremely high grades because they come to the review session? There is a factor in the discussion that, unless you are in my classes, you overlooked. On the table, to the left, is an empty donut box. Every time we have had a review session since the beginning of school, with one exception, there have been donuts provided. I don't bring them. The young man seated at my left, Isarath, always goes to Shipley Donuts, a Houston institution for seventy-two years, the morning of a test and shares glazed donuts with his fellow students at our review. As Friday's test was the seventeenth of the school year, you can see that he has incurred quite an expense. Back in August, I told the classes about these reviews and jokingly remarked that if someone would like to bring donuts, so much the better. I have roughly seventy students in those three Gospels classes but only one responded to the donut invitation; this young man from Thailand.

Every group needs someone who goes the extra mile and in ours, it's Isarath. He's not wealthy- he left school yesterday on his way to working in a Thai restaurant- but he is compelled to make life a little sweeter for others. I can't say how many of these teenagers come for the food but if even one gets a more in-depth instruction into the Word of God, isn't it worth it? Jesus had no qualms about mixing His sermons with a few groceries (see The Feeding of the 5000) so I think we are being perfectly Scriptural here. We're told that Andrew was the apostle who brought to Jesus the boy with five loaves and two fish in the buildup to the only miracle told in all four Gospels. If he had bumped into Isarath two thousand years ago, the story might have had a different flavor..... and maybe a few less baskets of leftovers.


Applicable quote of the day:
"It's never crowded along the extra mile.''

Wayne Dyer

God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

Sunday, February 28, 2021

The Patch

 The Patch


A big story on the sports' websites a number of  years ago regarded a high school girls' track team in California losing a league championship when a pole vaulter wore a friendship bracelet. After the young lady had won the event, and the team won the title with those first place points, an opposing coach protested over what was classified as jewelry. As you might expect, there was an uproar. Here is a similar incident I wrote about on August 7, 2007.

I'm big on doing things the right way in my classes and in my coaching. Rules and regulations are important....but they can't overshadow everything else. There was a story in the national news last week about an American Legion Baseball controversy in the state of Washington. American Legion regulations require that uniforms bear the Legion insignia, traditionally a sewn-on patch. Two teams recently won first round district tournament games but were made to forfeit because their insignias were silk screened to the jerseys, allowable under national Legion regulations, instead of attached by thread. One of the squads had dominated their victory in a 14-0 rout. The forfeitures immediately became subject matter for talk radio and sports columns. The director of the tournament says all teams had been notified by e-mail of the new policy. The coach of one team maintains he wasn't informed because the e-mail came on a school account he doesn't check in the summer. It was reported one team made a gentlemen's agreement with the director to make sure they had the sewn-on patches in place by the next tournament but ended up forfeiting the game anyway. The director seemed to take the approach that a rule is a rule and you can't deviate. The players and coach of the team that was awarded a victory after being trounced by fourteen runs admitted they did not deserve the win. There are conflicting accounts of who actually lodged the protest. In the end, the ruling stood. The tournament is over but the fallout will continue indefinitely. I liked what the media in Washington dubbed the quarrel: Patchgate. Nicknames have the side effect of insuring disputes have a life of their own.

I love American Legion Baseball. I played it for four years and I coached it for three. It has a history dating back to the 1920's. It is steeped in tradition and patriotism and is a summer staple in many parts of the country. I remember before district tournament games reciting the American Legion sportsmanship pledge as both teams lined up on the baselines. I consider it an honor that I have worn the patch in question as both a player and coach. It's easy to question someone else's decision, especially when you are a thousand miles away and don't have access to all the information. With that said, I can't believe the only way to handle the situation was with forfeitures. The method of adhesion had no effect on the outcome of the game and the punishment was directed at kids who were at zero fault. A little creative correction was in order. Intent of the law should be seen as more important at times than the letter of the law. (I realize this can be the dreaded slippery slope.) James 2:13 teaches us that, "Mercy triumphs over judgment!" Last week in Washington, judgment threw a shutout at mercy.


Applicable quote of the day:
"The other sports are just sports. Baseball is a love."
Bryant Gumbel


God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

Saturday, February 27, 2021

The Faithful Student

 The Faithful Student

I learn a great deal from my students! This entry, from February 4, 2017, is an example of just that.

Yesterday was Friday and it had been a long week at school. Not a bad week; actually a very good week but extremely busy. I made my mind up that  I was going to leave right at 3:45, the earliest time teachers may depart under normal circumstances. But, it's never easy to get away. I needed to do this and a teacher brought some work to me and before I knew it, the clock on my computer said 4:30. Now I could leave .... but then a girl walked in. She asked if she could work in my room on her card and I said sure. The young lady is an 8th grader from China in her first year in the US. I think she is very intelligent but English is still very difficult for her so her grades in Bible don't reflect what I believe is her superior intellect. Yesterday was a test day and after we are done with tests, we make cards for people who are in the hospital or grieving  or simply need cheering up. Except for asking for some glue, she toiled wordlessly for about an hour until the call came that her ride was here. She finished the card right then and left it with me- it's for the husband of a former faculty member and dad of two of our alumni whose father died recently. She did painstaking work, very intricate in detail. She had probably spent fifteen minutes on it at the end of Bible class in the morning so I'm guessing she put north of an hour and a quarter for a small bonus that ends up being only up to a 3% extra credit. I marveled at her industriousness for such a small reward. My take is she is very kind and wants to bring some light to a grieving family.

This afternoon, I took another look at the essay she penned on her previous test. The question dealt with the fairness of the owner in the Parable Of The Workers In The Field as well as my treatment of a basketball player named Heidi. Our international students are not allowed to use translators on tests but I make an exception for discussion sections as their English vocabulary is limited. I could not follow her logic exactly but what I took out was that she thought the land owner was unfair (paying all the workers the same regardless of how long they worked) and I was fair in not playing Heidi even though she was eligible. She made a point that I thought as brilliant in regards to school policy. It doesn't matter if you are one second late for school or one hour late, you are still late and there will be a penalty, detention. None of my English speaking students came up with that train of thought. She made a perfect score on the essay part of the exam.

It's fairly simple for me to take into account her language barriers in middle school. Grades don't go to class rank which goes into college acceptance/scholarships and can sway the future as they do once we hit the ninth grade. In my middle school classes, I can help here and there as needed. Let me share an example why I so greatly appreciate this girl. In the fall when it was obvious that it would be hard for her on our reading quizzes taken straight from the Gospel of Luke, I offered to let her take them with her laptop open to biblegateway.com as compensation. She refused my offer- she felt it would not be fair to her classmates. That kind of said it all to me. I know she isn't perfect but I know she's trying hard. That's why one of the most comforting passages to me comes in Matthew 25 where Jesus twice quotes the master as saying, "Well done, good and faithful servant." Notice, he doesn't say 'good and talented servant' or 'good and flawless servant' or even 'good and perfectly bilingual servant.' I'm going to be judged despite my many imperfections through the blood of Jesus. My life will be evaluated by my faithfulness, despite the many sins I have committed. Satan accuses me; my Savior defends me. I'm like my student- all my effort would still leave me short in the final tally if there were no grace. But praise God, there is grace and we all know what it is. Just amazing.

Applicable quote of the day:
"Many are called, few are chosen, but fewer still are faithful. These are the overcomers spoken of ten times in the book of Revelation. They are disciples of Jesus who have not only been accepted by God but who have been tested by Him through many circumstances and who have been approved by Him."
Zac Poonen

God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

Friday, February 26, 2021

The Value Of The Ball

 The Value Of The Ball


The same basketball foundations still ring true today as they did in this piece from January 29, 2013. 
We played our last basketball game of the season yesterday. We played well but lost by six points. Considering the other school beat us by fifty last year, it's easy to tell we made strides. After going 0 for the 2011-2012 season, I was thrilled that we ended up with a record of 7-8. If you are a frequent reader, you know I really love this bunch of kids on my team this year. They were an absolute joy to coach and with only two eighth graders, I'm looking for more improvement next year, in basketball but more importantly in maturity and spirituality. If you've never coached, you find you can connect with young people in a short period of time. I did.

There was a girl on the other team yesterday who really impressed me. I don't know her name; unlike my high school coaching days, you don't really scout enough to acquire that kind of information in middle school. But every loose ball belonged to her. It didn't matter if it was on the floor or in the air, if it was an errant shot or a pass from her teammate or a pass from one of our kids. She went and got the ball....and she retained it. From the first day of practice, I tell my players that the two most important things in basketball are:
A. being a TEAM

B. the BALL
Please understand that we don't speak about winning. We  talk about competing and improving and the team we play is always ourselves. We emphasize relationships with each other and family and most importantly, the Lord. But when it comes to playing basketball, you have to be good at A and B. We were very good at A. We were not very good at B. You have to value the ball and we did not for the most part. You see, if we have the ball, the other team can't score and we can't lose AND we can only score ourselves if we have it. You know, we played hard but we were very careless with the ball which is my responsibility. We didn't take care of it like it was valuable or precious. We gave it up easily and frequently and we talked that this has to change if we want to be good. Things of value cannot be wasted or given up without a fight. 

Things that are valuable to us are the things we take care of. In my eighth grade, second period class, Everett and Annaliza sit side-by-side due to my seating arrangement. This morning, I asked Everett if he would shave his head for $100- of course he would. It will grow back in a couple of months and it's $100! But when I ask Annaliza if she would shave her head for $10,000, she quickly and emphatically shakes her head no. Why? Hair is precious to a girl and it's not for sale, no matter the cost. So, which of these two kids do you think will take care of their hair and protect it the most? I don't even have to answer that- we all know. In Matthew 13, Jesus tells about a man who found a pearl of great value and invested everything he had in it. Do you think the man left that treasure lying around carelessly? As inhabitants of this transient world, though, we often value the temporary over the eternal. Again, Jesus taught this in Matthew 16, verse 26:
What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

If we value our soul, won't we guard it above all else? Won't we protect and guard it at any cost? So often, we treat our souls carelessly and recklessly, while we place an inordinate emphasis on what the Savior tells us is in danger from moths and rust and thieves. You can buy a basketball like we use, a Wilson Evolution 28.5 model, for about $65 but when it's in the air during a game, the owner of that sphere is whoever wants it the most. Satan desires to have us- our Father in heaven wants to have us. That leaves it up to us. And if you don't think we can be collectively careless, consider this: we played the entire second half yesterday WITH A BOYS' BALL and no one noticed; neither team nor the coaches or the referees. It just slipped through our fingers. We can't let that can't happen with things of value

Applicable quote of the day:
Steve
Luke 18:1
www.hawleybooks.com
E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Five And A Quarter

 Five And A Quarter

This is typically the time of year when we kick off our Honduras and Haiti project. Following is one of the many stories I could tell from our years of collecting change. It is from May 9, 2013.

In life, there are many things which at first glance appear to be insignificant which in reality are a big deal. We are in the middle of our fifteenth annual collection of change at Westbury Christian School. The project, which was carried over from Friendship Christian School in Lebanon, Tennessee, helps support and maintain Hope For Haiti's Children and Mission Lazarus. Both groups aim to do a variety of good works, primarily to get children off the streets in Honduras and Haiti and place them in a loving and stable Christian environment. During these fifteen years at WCS, we have raised close to $130,000, primarily through special made coin bank bottles for each student K-12 as well as faculty and staff. The kids bring their bottles back the first week in May each year and we do all of the counting and sorting in my class room. It's a tradition the kids look forward to and I do as well. There's lots of lessons to be learned with pennies/nickels/dimes/quarters. 

Dealing with all this metal money is really a two step process. First, we sort and then we count. I make a big deal with the students that the banks trust us and when we say a bank bag has $100 of nickels, it has $100 of nickels. I stress being careful when we sort; counting a dime as a penny is a 1000% mistake both for the banks and the children we are helping. The kids like sorting more than counting. We find all sorts of stuff as we go through what is dumped into a huge laundry hamper we use as a receptacle. Foreign currency, Chucky Cheese and car wash tokens, jewelry- it's all there! Two years ago, we found some bullets- 22 shells. This morning, there was a piece of an OREO cookie. We make sure the kids wash and sanitize their hands when we finish for the day! Money is filthy. 

During third period on Monday, Jonathan came up to me with a question. As his Gospels class sorted coins, he had found an interesting quarter. He asked if he could swap it out with one in his billfold. I told him that was fine; that's not an unusual request. The next day, however, Jonathan came up to me in my classroom and held out five one dollar bills. Apparently, he collects coins and he looked up the value of the quarter he took. He was putting the market value of the quarter back into the children's fund. I told him he didn't have to, that he had made a good business decision and it was his to keep. After all, no one else recognized its value and we were none shorter for the swap- it was simply one quarter for another in the eyes of the rest of us. But Jonathan would have none of my argument and insisted I take the cash for the greater good. I did and we have not spoken of it in the ensuing two days.

My job description is to teach the scriptures to eighth and tenth graders with a smattering of freshmen/juniors/seniors blended in for good measure. It's also my obligation to model the things that Jesus taught about living a life pleasing to God. Jonathan's example of integrity was flawless. Jesus taught about money and its wise use and this sophomore demonstrated a mastery of the lessons as well as the application. I would have never known about his investment and I mentioned that I believed it was his to keep. Jonathan didn't feel that way and in retrospect, I'm glad he didn't. Ethical people are much more difficult to find than shrewd businessmen. In the Parable of the Talents, the servants who pleased the Master with their handling of his possessions were praised and promoted and compensated. Jonathan increased the value of that 25 cent piece by 2000% for children who can't fend for themselves. That's a pretty good investment in the kingdom of heaven. Maybe I should let him handle my money!

Applicable quote of the day:
God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1
www.hawleybooks.com
E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com