Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Actually, the title is not about the picture.

It's about today in my classroom. At wonderful John B. Hood Middle School, we have hall issues...namely, too many hallwalkers, particularly during our 3 lunch periods. It's easier for them to cut class or lunch then since school personnel are assigned to handle the enormous security logistics at feeding time in the big school and aren't available to check the halls.

Last week, it seemed that each day, someone would bang on my door while I was in the midst of my (ahem) quality instruction. Or they'd kick my door. Or they'd scream like a banshee before vanishing down the nearby stairs. My 4th period Einsteins think this is real funny.

Today, someone tossed a half-filled soda can through the transom above the side wall in my classroom. It barely missed one of my kids before splattering to the floor. Another few inches and we'd be on the Channel 8 News tonight.

I really don't think the average person on the street has any idea how bad public schools in Dallas are.

Friday, January 27, 2006

To-Do List

I really, really try to live in an anticipatory frame of mind concerning Jesus' return. I want to go home, NOW.

That being said, I have a mental list of things I want to do before I croak. And here they are:

1. I want to have an aquarium with exotic, equatorial fish. The almost infinite variety of color and shape fascinates me no end.

2. I want to see a Shuttle launch in person. I actually have an idea as to how to pull this off. Stay tuned.

3. I want to ride the Concorde. Uh, this could be a challenge since those beautiful planes have been permanently grounded. There is some talk in Britain about reviving the birds and paying for it by charging even more than British Airways was in the past. So this item has two strikes against it.

4. I want to spend a late July without the impending gloom of a school year approaching. This one is close.

5. I want to see Richard Sturban die. Just kidding, Blake.

6. I want to hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in person again. Carole and I have experienced this twice and the power of those voices digs deep into the soul. Too bad those folks are clueless religiously.

7. I would like to revisit Fort Jackson, S.C., the site on my basic training 36 years ago. I had so many unsettled issues when I was there...where would I work as a teacher, who would I marry, would I survive the lonliness that enveloped me. Seeing some of the sights again would reaffirm that God was and is in control.

Maybe next, I move to the next realm and tell you the people I'm gonna look up in heaven.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Survey Says....

Of necessity, I had to kill some time with my classes yesterday, so I passed out a survey I'd created. Some interesting results:

"What time do you get up on a school day?" (Our first bell is at 8:20.) Earliest time given: 5 AM. Latest time given: 8:15 AM.

"What time do you get up on a Saturday when you're allowed to sleep late?" Earliest answer given: 6 AM. Latest time given: 1:30 PM.

"Do you go to church?" Most answered in the affirmative. BTW, all surveys were anonymous.

"If you could spend 15 minutes with anyone in history, alive or dead, who would it be?" Got a couple of Harriet Tubmans, a couple of Abe Lincolns, a few "grandpas", several MLK's, and one George Bush.

"What scares you more than anything?" "My brother and sister." "Clowns." "My dad." "Getting shot." "A naked body." "Darkness." "God." "My brother's face at night."

Monday, January 23, 2006

I Used to be a Runner

I used to run...

Oh, it's been many years since I went running. Mercy, do I miss it. A bad hip followed by several surgeries on my back and left knee have made this a distant memory. Or is it so distant?

I can conjure up so many pleasurable recollections from my running years. Very seldom did it fall into the category of "work". Most days, it was an act of pure rejuvenation. Something about blood flow, sweating, and exertion that come out of the blender as pure joy.

It's been proven that at a certain point in a long run, the brain begins to kick out chemicals (endorphins?) that produce a natural high. I could just about count on this happening about the 15 mile mark. It was as though my feet weren't touching concrete while mentally, all was right in the world. Oh, I miss that feeling.

Many, many of my miles came while my kids were very young. Carole was left to deal with them while I was out getting high. Not fair, was it? She had to deal with increased stress while I was jettisoning my own.

There was stupidity involved this preoccupation with fitness. I would get up at 4:15 AM, drive to White Rock Lake, and "run the lake", a distance of 9.3 miles. Then I'd return home and prepare for a day's work. At times I would train for a marathon and try to get in 50 miles a week. That's a ridiculous time investment at a point in my life where those hours would have been better spent being a husband and a father.

So maybe my body deterioration was God's way of telling me to slow down. I accept it. I have no choice. But do I ever miss those feelings of transcendent joy generated by a wildly pumping heart.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Trusting, Not Trying

Here's some great stuff from Edward Fudge:

'TRUSTING' NOT 'TRYING'by Edward Fudge
"Christ is the end of the law for righteousness," writes Paul, "to everyone who believes" (Rom. 10:4). The word translated "end" here is telos, and it means "goal" rather than "termination." Many Jews in Paul's day tried to keep God's laws so well and so thoroughly that God would examine their record of obedience and pronounce them "righteous" (Rom. 9:31-32; 10:2-3). Their goal to be found right with God was commendable but they were ignorant of the way to attain it.
Their approach would never work, according to Paul, because no human besides Jesus ever obeys God's laws perfectly. The problem with the "trying" approach is not in the Law but in the people trying to keep it (Rom. 8:3). Meanwhile, says Paul, God was pronouncing believing Gentiles "righteous" -- acquitted of guilt in his sight -- who were not even trying to obtain such a result by their own performance (Rom. 9:30).
Moses described righteousness-by-law, says the Apostle, as he quotes from Deuteronomy. No one has to climb up to heaven and bring down God's laws, said Moses, and no one has to go to the underworld to find the divine rules to keep them. No, the great Lawgiver explained, God's commands are right here in front of you, ready for you to hear and do and keep (Rom. 10:5; Deut. 30:11-14).
Indeed, that is the what it takes to obtain God's favor by the approach of personal obedience. One must keep God's laws. Not merely memorize them or admire them, or explain them. Keep them -- all of them, all the way, all the time (Rom. 10:5). And this is what the best of the Jews were desperately trying to do (Rom. 10:1-3). Sadly, it is what many weary Christians are trying to do today as well. Their approach would never work, according to Paul, because no human besides Jesus ever obeys God's laws perfectly. The problem with the "trying" approach is not in the Law but in the people trying to keep it (Rom. 8:3). Meanwhile, says Paul, God was pronouncing believing Gentiles "righteous" -- acquitted of guilt in his sight -- who were not even trying to obtain such a result by their own performance (Rom. 9:30).
* * *
Many who consider themselves zealous Christians today are wearing themselves out trying to obey God's commandments in hopes they will obtain his favor. Yet their zeal is misguided (Rom. 10:2), for they seek the divine acquital, "not by faith but as though it were by works" (Rom. 9:32).
The way to God's approval is altogether different, Paul affirms. That way is to trust God. To illustrate this, Paul borrows and adapts the very language from Moses which he had just used to explain "righteousness-by-trying." We do not need to go up to heaven to bring down a Savior, Paul says, for the Savior has already come (Rom. 10:6). We do not need to descend to the underworld to rescue this Savior, for God already has raised him from among the Dead (Rom. 10:7). Again it can be said, "The word is near you." This time it is not a word of law for us to keep, however, but a word or message of faith -- of trust -- in One who has kept all God's commandments perfectly and who has offered that obedient life to God in our stead (Rom. 10:8).
The obedience which sets us right in God's sight has already been accomplished on the earth -- by Jesus Christ our Savior and substitute! We cannot complete it, improve on it or make it better than it already is. We can only trust it, rely on it and respond to it. We cannot contribute to our salvation or right standing before God. We can only agree with God ("confess") about Jesus Christ and depend ("believe") on Jesus' work to obtain our acquital (Rom. 10:9-10). And we can confidently expect just that result, for "whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed" (Isa. 28:16, quoted at Rom. 10:11).
As the old spiritual song put it, "Believe, obey -- the work is done!" Jesus did it all, 2,000 years ago. This is the truth for Jews and it is the truth for all the nations (Rom. 10:12), for "whoever" calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved" (Joel 2:32, quoted at Rom. 10:13). The gospel message rings clearly through the centuries. It's not by trying but by trusting. And none who trusts in God's salvation will ever be left hanging in the breeze.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Smelling the Fumes

I have a friend who works for and at DFW Airport. He and I have gradually let our friendship develop to where he trusts me a little more each time I'm invited for a "ride-along" with him.

Monday, I was off for MLK and he took me along as he did his job...which is basically "runway control" at DFW. And on Monday, he edged me even closer to the runways than ever before. That's how I was able to get the above shot.

Man, I hope nothing ever happens to him.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Growing Pains

I heard an interesting debate yesterday on the radio. The two sides were debating whether a baby felt pain during delivery. I can't speak for you but I remember it hurting. Toughest 10 minutes of my life.

Transition often is painful. Since I will not be teaching next fall (unless God has a surprise job for me), I will have more expendable time. No more lesson planning or weekends spent grading papers. No more total exhaustion from lecturing six straight classes without a break.

The stupidest thing for me to do would be to plan on sitting around more. I confess that I'm being pulled in a surreptitious way by God. He's already telling me that there's going to be spiritual activity and serving involved.

Does He want me doing something I'm very uncomfortable doing, like visiting lonely senior citizens at the Christian Care Center? Or will I be interviewing clients for my church's benevolent outreach? Or something I haven't even considered?

All I know is there will accountability for my time, just like now.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Time Flies

This watch is a "Breitling". It's famous for being the watch of choice for pilots. Looks great, eh?

When worn, it fairly shouts, "I am pilot-man. I fly large aircraft at high speeds. I am special. Able to handle any emergency in the air or on the ground. I am pilot-man."

You can own one for a mere $5000.

And people will think you spend your days at 40,000 feet.

What it does is tell time.

Isn't it amazing the games people play?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

How Dry I Am

I took the above picture at DFW last Saturday. It's a bit of a rare shot because you can only get the dust flying like this if (1) it's a 747, whose outside engines extend outside the runway, and (2) if it's dry.

Uh, it's dry. Amazingly, we got 5 minutes of heavy rain here in Rockwall tonight with the passage of a cold front. It was so great hearing thunder again and the sound of big drops hitting the windows. I had almost forgotten what it was like.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


I feel funny.

I have never particularly enjoyed my profession; oh, I enjoy those magic moments of connectivity with students when you know ," They got it!", but with all the negatives that have come with territory of teaching in a public school, the thrill is gone. It doesn't keep me from giving my best effort, but it saps my energy.

Now that I'm into my final 18 weeks of 36 years of doing this, I'm trying to figure out how I "should" feel, rather than letting my feelings flow naturally. It's way too early to let euphoria seep into my perspective. But every day, it seems there are things I'm doing for the final time. Today, I told the kids about the alleged similarities between the assassinations of Lincoln and Kennedy. It's a little 10-minute segment that I've done well over a hundred times, and today at 2:20 PM, I finished the story for the last time. And I knew it.

And for the final time, I saw the wonderment in their eyes as they heard that Oswald shot Kennedy from a warehouse and was captured in a theater while Boothe shot Lincoln in a theater and was captured in a warehouse. And that both Presidents died on a Friday before a major holiday. And that both died in a building with the initials "P.H.". Stuff like that.

"Whoa, can you get us the website where you got information"?, they ask.

That's the part I'll miss.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Favorite Aromas

Okay, not your normal blog entry.

Favorite odors:

1. New tires. Only the male species can understand this.

2. Jet-A. This is the fuel used by aircraft. It has a definite aroma and the other guys who hang out at airports like I do agree that this is one beautiful smell.

3. The smell of tennis balls in a newly-opened can.

4. Bread being baked. When I was a kid vacationing in Minnesota with my family, we visited church members in Pine City, MN. At one home, the lady was baking bread...big loaves of bread. I can still smell it.

5. Freshly mimeographed sheets. Remember them? Long before copy machines, there were mimeograph machines. The copies came out wet with chemicals and smelled great!

6. Baby Magic. That pink lotion you put on a baby as the final touch after a bath. If I ever drown, I want it to be in a vat of Baby Magic. Or chocolate.

7. New car smell. Has anyone yet nailed down exactly what its origin is? While this aroma is pleasant to the nostrils, it generally means you owe your life to a bank.

Okay. Your turn.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Reminders That I Have It Good

There's a tendency when hammering out these blog entries to focus on how bad I have it. Poor me, teacher in an urban middle school, drives a bus, blah....blah. But the reality is that I'm rich beyond measure, in wealth (compared to most people in the world), in family, and in my job (of all things!).

All this has been brought home by the tragedy in W. Virginia. People away from the coal mines don't really know how miners and miners' families suffer. Imagine ekeing out a living by carving coal from the ground...hundreds and hundreds of feet away from sunlight, birds chirping, and clean air. Imagine living with knowledge that in a good year, more than 20 people will die doing what you do. Your house probably doesn't resemble a house as much as it does a shack...in a dismal town with dismal skies.

Imagine a life expectancy far shorter than most folks.

No wonder that most coal miners want their sons to do anything in life...except what they do.

Nope, I've got it good.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Back to Work

Wow. As I type this, my 17 or so days of freedom are drawing to a close. What a blast. Got the Lasik done (perfection, btw). Got in 3 photography safaris at the airport. Got to sleep late. There is nuthin' like waking up at 4:15 AM, realizing that the alarm won't be going off today, and snuggling again with the peaceful knowledge that this is a free day.

Carole worked super hard...big Christmas dinner and big New Year's Party. She was on her feet cooking, decorating, and cleaning for hours and hours. She's incredible.