Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Incredible Power of Prayer

My great-nephew, Canon Perkins, got his transplanted liver yesterday and is doing great. In a situation where so many things could go wrong, everything is not only going right, they're going perfectly.

Makes me wonder why we (I) occasionally doubt prayer. Of course, God doesn't always answer prayer like we'd like, but if we couldn't change the normal course of events by petitioning God, there would be no reason to pray.

Thousands of folks have prayed for Canon. God has listened and unleashed his mighty power. Stand back and be awed. It's a mighty thing to behold!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Save Yourself Some Trouble

With age comes wisdom. Not because you're constantly doing research in the library, but more because of osmosis. Lessons get pounded through your skull simply because you've been around forever. If I live to be 138, I'll really be wise.

One lesson I've learned is that sports don't matter. I find them interesting, but not worth a lot of my energy. That's quite a reversal from my attitude in my young married years. If the Cowboys played on a Monday night and won, the excitement would keep me from sleeping the rest of the night. If they got beat, the deflation would do the same.

Nowadays, I can take or leave a Stars game and skip Mav games in droves. A Cowboy victory is nice, but a loss is no problem. With all of the other things in my life that have assumed importance, a mere game gets pushed down the ladder. I'm sure part of this is the stereotypical millionaire athlete and his stereotypically selfish, me-first attitude. But in the main, the key factor in this mental transformation is the realization that it's really all about God, family, and service. If such is true, sports is mere galactic dust in God's universe.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Mellow Thanksgiving

It's approaching 10PM on T'giving evening. What a great day we had. We survived the noon to three time frame when 30+ folks were gathered here. It got a little noisy, but the food and fellowship were outstanding. And once more, I must give credit to my remarkable wife, who pulled this off with style and grace.

But now, the grandsons are asleep and Brooke, Michael, Jenny and Brett are playing Clue. Carole is reading the massive ad sections that impregnated the morning paper. And I'm content. God has been good to us, and nothing says that any better than having your family around. Our kids have been great kids and they married well. This is the reason I'm mellow tonight.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Good Time to Be Male

As I type this, Carole is in the kitchen preparing a pre-Thanksgiving meal for six. She has been getting ready for this holiday for several days. The planning and logistics are intense. Meanwhile, I've been pretty much a spectator...observing her industry and love from a distance.

We men have it so easy during this holiday. We usually do little or none of the food preparation. As the women are furiously getting the turkey and all the fixin's ready, the males are gathered around the TV to watch a Detroit Lions game that has no importance in the grand scheme of things.

By Thursday's end, the men will be exhausted from eating continuously for seven hours. The women will be exhausted for a more honorable reason...hard work. May God bless the women in our lives. Because they have surely blessed us.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Chandra, Drew and Canon

Today, my great-nephew Canon flew from Amarillo to Houston for his second try at a liver transplant. For Canon and his parents, this was deja vu. Just a few days ago, they had a "false alarm"...the harvested liver was too large. Sadly, the doctors discovered today that the little guy had a slight ear infection and a slight lung infection; just enough to make the transplant risky.

Please pray for these three and the grandparents. Our hope is that they won't have to wait long at all for the next opportunity, and that Canon's body will accept the liver without complications. We won't know the reasons for these false starts this side of eternity. But God is in control and all is well.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Down and Out!

This is a 1968 GMC school bus. Think it has seen its final trip? Kinda sad to see it there, rusting in the weeds. We have come such a long way with school buses.

I would imagine that this bus had a stick shift, with the stick protruding from the floor. It probably had steel bars atop each seat, guaranteed to add appointments to the orthodontists' schedules. There was no radio on this bus; if the driver had difficulty, a student would be dispatched to the nearest house to beg the owner to make a phone call.

Wonder how many kids threw up on this bus? How many current Ph. D.'s rode it? How many times did the driver have to break up fights? How many times did a driver escort a team to an athletic field and then hunker down for a couple hours of sleep?

Did it have that "new bus smell" when the keys were handed over that first day?

I believe all vehicles develop personalities. Was this one steady, dependable, reliable? Or moody, grouchy, and prone to pouting?

And why, for pete's sake, is it not being used in Costa Rica at this moment to squeeze a few more thousand miles out it?

We're Moving Uptown...

Okay, it's not the Lexus of school buses. But it's at least not a Saturn, either. It is the first bus I've ever called mine that had "features", to wit: intermittent wipers, a floating driver's seat, and cruise control. It has a white roof, thus lowering indoor temps by a few precious degrees. And, it has only 77K miles on it...just getting broken in.

All perfect? No. The aforementioned driver's seat squeaks, and neither I nor the mechanics can find the source. It's a little slow off the line, and that can be nerve-wracking if you've decided you have time to enter a busy boulevard, but the bus seems content to scare you with its gitty-up. But it has so much to offset those liabilities. Two powerful air-conditioners. A wonderful engine sound that purrs with diesel power. Nice noise-suppression. It's actually a fairly quiet bus...until the kids arrive.

I guess it's wrong to pray for a school bus since there are, uh, real problems in the world. But this baby was an answer to my supplications. When you spend as much time as I do in a yellowhound, it might as well be a nice one.

In my next installment, one final look at the school bus topic.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Aging with Grace

This is D305. The "D" is for diesel. I love diesel engines. There is a feeling you get when driving diesel that is a combination of sensations you feel from the accelerator passing through your shoe and into your foot...and the glorious sounds emanating from beneath the hood. I had temporarily driven a diesel bus my rookie year (1982) and loved it. The only drawbacks with diesel are the slow getaways from a stop and the messy job of putting the fuel into your tank. That stuff seems to be mix of oil and gasoline.

This is the first bus I drove that had tinted windows. Hats off to the genius who first had that brainstorm! The students on the inside can see out, of course, but those on the outside have no idea they are being waved to, yelled at, or signalled with a certain finger. And most importantly, this was my first bus with air-conditioning. It is impossible to describe the difference that makes on a hot or even warm day. It takes irritability and short tempers and replaces them with comfort and solitude. Well, not exactly solitude, but it had an incredible calming effect on the kids and the driver.

D305 has two air-conditioners. The one in the back was great. It blasted ooodles of frigid air and could almost chill the entire bus by itself. The front one, however, had only one speed...slow. The air was wonderfully cold, but you had to get right up to the vents in order to feel it. As a result, little of the cold air reached the driver. It did have a fan installed on the dash which helped somewhat.

I drove this baby from September to May last year. I was semi-happy with it. But it has 123,000 miles on it and I never knew when something important might decided to quit on me. It is solid as a rock and has a great "feel" to it...something only a school bus driver could understand. But when I got another chance to upgrade this past August, I gleefully left 305 behind.

Next, the story of D450.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Miles to go before I scream...

This is P3058, the "P" representing propane, the fuel that powered this bus for the estimated 50,000 miles I drove it. I was first handed the keys to this half-BlueBird, half-GMC hybrid over a decade ago. And I drove it around the planet twice. That thought staggers me.

Good ole bus, though. Did zero to forty faster than any bus I've ever driven. Was very reliable, was seldom in the shop. She never, ever stranded me with 50 sugar-crazed middle-schoolers. She always waited until I was alone, like the time I was doing 45 down Scyene on a Friday afternoon, gleefully headed home for the weekend, when she dropped the transmission. Uh, I was late getting home that day.

She witnessed numerous fights in her time, nearly all of them in the morning on the way to school. Stuff would get started between a couple of kids long before I arrived at the bus stop, only to escalate to a main event after the combatants had boarded.

She also saw the scariest thing I've ever seen...a student sailing through the air after being hit by someone who ignored my alternating red flashers...knocked him out of his shoes to an LZ 50 feet away. He survived only through the grace of God, but the video still runs through my head with startling clarity.

Alas, I betrayed 3058 before she betrayed me. I got a chance in 2004 to upgrade to an air-conditioned bus, and I jumped on it big-time. Tomorrow, I tell you the story of D305.

Sorry, I'm busy.

Hey, I'm very busy these days. Still working on the school bus post.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Coming Attraction

Since I know you hang on each word I write, stay tuned for an upcoming blog on the subject of school buses. I'm working on a few minor details, such as how to insert pix in between paragraphs. Hang with me; it'll be a killer blog.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

A "Chance" Meeting

Bear with me. This will be a tad lengthy, but will be worth your time.

I read a post from a Christian author (Edward Fudge) yesterday in which he described a chance meeting with a homeless person who needed shoes. Fudge was in his car at the time and a quick check of his pockets revealed a $5 bill and a $20 bill. Unwilling to part with the bills, he instead emptied his car's coin tray and gave that to the man.

As he drove away, he was instantly guilt-stricken. Fudge related that he had just been listening to audio tapes on Christian discipleship...and here was an opportunity to demonstrate the love of Christ which he mishandled completely. He immediately prayed that God would give him a second chance.

Minutes later, he was gassing his car. Across the street he noticed a beggar with an amputated leg. Edward went over to meet him, gave him the $5 bill and said, "Please accept this in the name of Jesus!" "Ah, a Jesus man," the beggar responded. He then lifted both hands in the air and said, "Thank you, Jesus!"

I was touched by this story. Often, in the poverty-stricken neighborhoods where I drive a school bus, I will see someone pushing a grocery cart loaded with aluminum cans. To me, these folks presented a case for being the perfect people to help. Here they are actually working rather than begging on a street corner. However, the sheer logistics of suddenly stopping a school bus on a busy street made such an opportunity to render aid impossible.

So, after reading Fudge's account, I said a silent prayer that God give me a way to help people like the cart pushers. I didn't have to wait long.

A little after 7 this morning, I had parked my bus in my usual holding area near Hawn Freeway. As per my morning ritual, I closed my eyes and prayed for a time. When I opened them, here is what I saw: about 30 feet in front of me a woman was searching a large garbage container for cans. There was a tobaggon pulled down low on her forehead and she was wearing a Dallas Cowboys jacket. She was using a long stick to probe the innards of the trash can, occasionally lifting up plastic sacks and shaking beer cans loose.

She would stomp the cans flat and put them her own plastic bag. Then she would continue the operation. Minutes went by. The single-mindedness of her quest could not be underestimated. She was relentless. Occasionally, she would extract something other than aluminum that would be put into another bag. I found myself transfixed by this real-life drama being carried out at sunrise. Boom! It hit me. The prayer from yesterday. God had heard my prayer and was answering it in an unmistakable manner; I had been too overly-curious to catch on at first.

Now, it was 7:28 - a minute before I have to leave and head to the first stop. I eased the bus next to her; she was now nearly 20 minutes into this feverish attempt to what, feed herself? Her children? I opened the bus doors and she turned around. Her wrinkled face at first registered slight alarm. I didn't have any idea what I was going to say, but heard myself utter, "You look like you need a break!" I handed her a twenty. The face lit up and she smiled broadly. Amazingly, she had beautiful teeth. (How long had her life been on this track? Had she just recently been forced to the streets?) "Thank you," she gushed. "God bless you," was all I could think to say.

What a way to start the day. What a marvelous, interesting, amazing God we serve!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Finally, A Good Principal

Got this from Chuck Colson:

Bashing the Bling A Principal Draws the Line
November 2, 2005
At high schools across the country, the prom has gone from being an adolescent rite of passage to an indicator of social status to, now, the kind of extravagant thing that can affect the Gross Domestic Product. Whereas, not too long ago, the expenses associated with attending the prom were the price of the tux or dress and a corsage, today they can exceed what some hardworking families earn in a year.
That's why one courageous and morally serious Long Island principal said, "Enough already!"
The principal was Kenneth Hoagland of Kellenberg Memorial, a Catholic high school in Uniondale, New York. Hoagland, a brother in the Marianist order, was weary of the stories he heard about the Long Island school's spring prom: "Students putting down $10,000 to rent a house in the Hamptons for a weekend bash … Fathers chartering a boat so their kids could go out on a late-night 'booze cruise.'"
What bothered Hoagland wasn't only, or even primarily, the "sex, booze, and drugs." It was the "the flaunting of affluence … a pursuit of vanity for vanity's sake—in a word, financial decadence … "
So, Hoagland took the almost unimaginable step: At the start of this school year, he wrote parents a 2,000-word letter informing them that Kellenberg would no longer "put on the spring prom." Parents are free to continue to do as they please, but the school would have nothing to do with what he called an "orgy."
As expected, students were dismayed by Hoagland's decision, calling it—what else?—"unfair." Only slightly less expected was the reaction of some parents. One parent told Associated Press that school officials don't "have a right to judge what goes on after the prom … "
Obviously, the entire point of sending kids to a Catholic, rather than public, high school is lost on this parent.
Fortunately, it isn't lost on Hoagland. His actions are a reminder of two basic, if often-forgotten, truths: First, adults are supposed to set limits on kids. This is especially vital in our culture where most of the time teenagers function within an essentially adult-free subculture.
Without adult intervention, peer pressure, affluence, and the need to "fit in" almost invariably lead to the kinds of excesses that drove Hoagland to cancel the prom. It's sadly telling that it took a celibate cleric to relieve parents of the pressure imposed on them by kids' ever-escalating demands.
The other lesson is about the place of money in a Christian worldview. To hear some of our critics, our worldview is only about sex and Darwinism. According to some Christians, the only thing a Christian worldview has to say about money is "send us yours."
Hoagland's actions remind us that both are wrong. Flaunting affluence is injurious to the good life—yours and others'. A society that pursues vanity for its own sake cannot be called good, even if it abstains from "sex, booze, and drugs."
So, three cheers for a courageous principal who in saying, "Enough already!" reminds us that what matters is not what we have but, rather, the way we live.