Sunday, December 30, 2007

Dealing with Mom...

It's been an interesting few days with my 85 year-old mom. As with most folks her age, she is dealing with some physical issues - one of which is confusion. She now gets flustered when presented with situations which should be routine but are not to her anymore. This has led a conundrum about her driving.

We knew she was starting to have trouble even driving to familiar places when, a few weeks ago, she failed to arrive at her church. She got confused on her turns and ended up driving back home. She remained adamant, however, that she could handle going to the bank, the grocery store, and church. She said that she was familiar enough with those short trips to be trusted not to get lost anymore.

But on last Thursday, Mom went to get a haircut. I had quizzed her about it two days prior and she insisted she knew the way to the shop. Well, she got confused and proceeded to drive for hours...finally pulling into a service station near North Garland High School, a long, long way from home. I had gassed her car two weeks ago, but now the tank was almost empty - an indication of just how long she had been driving around in utter confusion.

God sent an angel to rescue her in the form of a kind lady who noticed that Mom seemed to be confused and flustered. This lady got my sister's cell number from her and called Marybeth. And Marybeth came and led her home. Even a day after this, Mom still insisted on keeping the keys.

My siblings and I knew that intervention was mandatory despite her efforts to retain this last bit of independence. I had decided that if it came down to it, I would simply go get the keys, the title, and the car and remove it her premises. But today, prayers were answered. Mom has decided it really is time. She will allow us to sell the car. I won't have to do that dirty deed after all.

I would hope that should I ever be where Mom is now, I would accede to my children's wishes immediately and hand over the keys. But I've learned that things I decide at the present can change decades later. In the wonderful decade of the '70's, I was young and healthy and able to go on three-hour training runs. I just knew that when I reached my 50's, I would still be fit and able to go on long runs. Well, here I am, practically sedentary because of a bad knee and hip. So I better be careful of issuing strong proclamations about how I'll act when I'm 85.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Man, it didn't take long for me to start sleeping late and staying up late. During the school year, the alarm sounds at 5:15 AM most days and 4:15 AM on Wednesdays. Now, I just roll over when my body tries to wake up at those silly times.

Nothing has changed in my assessment of Hollywood and the garbage the movie studios throw our way. On Christmas Eve, Carole and I took a chance on "P.S. I Love You". I was under the impression that it was PG. After two filthy hours of watching folks endorse adultery, we got home and I looked at the ad a little closer. It was PG-13. You know, "some content may be inappropriate" for pre-teens. Uh, it's content was inappropriate, period. And Hollywood has $16 from my wallet.

Are you keeping up with Mike Huckabee?

It's hard to top an all-male chorus.

Roy Orbison was greatness.

The top three cobblers: apple, cherry, pecan.

Are Hummers really necessary?

I'm really blessed to have a hobby to fiddle with in my approaching old age.

I applaud the poor guys I see in the Grove going from trash can to trash can collecting aluminum least they are trying.

I'm gonna be able to sing like Josh Groban in heaven. Of course, so will a lot of other guys. I hope Carole can pick me out anyway.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Yesterday and Today

Interesting photoshoot at DFW yesterday. When I arrived, the temp was 41 and winds were gusting to 38. And you must believe me when I tell you I didn't get cold. I had dressed warmly, of course. Plus, I would come out of my car for only the 20 seconds it took to image an aircraft. Then I would wait inside where it was warm for the next 4 minutes waiting for the next one. I looked up from my cemetery location and saw a massive 747 taxiing for departure; I quickly drove a mile to another location and got the above shot. Too dark to be really much good, but you have to work with what you've got.

Wonderful day today. I was on assignment from Highland Oaks to photograph a very gifted artist named David Broussard. Someone had paid to permanently hang an example of his work in one of the foyers, and now he had been invited to come sell some of his stuff to our members. All of the art work was related to Christ or Christian principals.

Spent the afternoon with Michael, Brooke, and an angel named Audrey. When I hold a tiny baby, I get feelings that are unique and not replicated anywhere else. I gaze at those tiny fingers, as wispy and delicate as drifting snowflakes. And then the faint hint of eyebrows, just barely there but precise and miraculous. Need I continue? It is so cool how they respond to being held and touched...much better than when they aren't. Reminds me of how much better we are when allow our Father to hold and touch us.

So, which picture do you like better?

Friday, December 21, 2007

Ah, 'tis the season!

I've ejected the last student from the bus for 2007 and now can settle in for some serious good times. Fortunately, the weather is gonna be perfect for a photography outing at DFW tomorrow. WHAT? (you say) Temperatures dropping through the 40's with winds up to 40 mph? Has someone spiked Tim's eggnog?

About 4 times a year, conditions like this will hit DFW - huge winds out of the northwest or west. Usually get a couple days like this in the spring and a couple during the winter. We had one two Saturdays ago and I skipped the outing due to an impending head cold. I won't miss tomorrow.

Why is this great for photography? As you know, aircraft land into the wind. DFW's runways are configured north/south. But tomorrow's high winds will be counted as "crosswinds" since they are going to northwesterly. This makes landings very problematic on north/south runways. The aircraft are very vulnerable to winds as they slow their speed to land. Crosswinds get up under the wings and try to flip the plane over. That won't happen, of course, because to some extent, pilots can make adjustments. But on very high wind days, there will be many go-arounds (where the landing is aborted and the plane has to circle in for another try). Pilots and airlines hate go-arounds because of the havoc they cause to schedules and the extra fuel they burn.

What DFW will do at some point tomorrow afternoon is to route as much of the incoming traffic to two runways that are configured NW/SE, 31R and 31L. They aren't thrilled with this prospect because those runways are shorter that the others. But the intense headwinds tomorrow, that won't be a factor.

Here's where I come in. There is a little public cemetery near the numbers on 31L. If all of this happens as I think it will, I'll be parked in the cemetery and have fantastics views of incoming aircraft, many of which will still be struggling with the wind. I'll be struggling with the wind myself, trying to hold a camera with a zoom lens steady in the wind. I can't wait. Maybe I'll have pix to share in upcoming blogs. Maybe I'm crazy for standing outside in horrendous conditions. Or maybe I'll get a cover shot.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Reflections on a new life...

Has there ever been a new parent who hasn't looked into that one-day old angelic face and not had a sliver of apprehension about the world that child will experience? Of course, most of what you're thinking is related to the goodness and joy of holding a miracle in your arms. There's nothing that really compares to those few days in your life.

But since you can't help but want the very best of life for the child, you do think about the times in which we live. Audrey's other grandfather and I had lots of time alone together during the past few days and we discussed this very fact. There are two conclusions that we reached: Audrey's world will be fraught with forces of evil the likes of which have never been seen by any society. The rise of Islam and eroding of respect for Christian values don't portend easy and fun times; our other thought was that the first conclusion doesn't really matter when you have God on your side.

Oh, for sure there will be tough times. But tough times allow Christians to solidify the foundation on which they rest. Facing the enemy doesn't reduce us to quivering jello...quite the opposite. It allows the power of the Holy Spirit to transform us into warriors of might and right - people who don't dread what the dark demons can do because we aren't of this world anyway. Our real life is yet to come!

So, little Audrey and her parents (and grandparents and great-grandparents) can rest easy in the security and hope that comes from God and God alone. It's a powerful thought...and one that we desperately need to share with the world.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Going home Wednesday

Here's Audrey being held by her Uncle Shaun with a head massage courtesy of cousin Andrew. Brooke and Audrey are doing well enough to be allowed to escape the hospital tomorrow and go home, where I'm sure restful, refreshing sleep awaits.

More future aviator pictures

Brooke and Audrey doing great. Michael holding up well. They'll get to go home tomorrow or Thursday. It's been a very blessed last few days in their lives.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Here she is!

It's late on Sunday night as I type this. But it is important that I stay up a bit later to introduce Audrey Grace to you. Born at 6:01 PM, 7 lbs 6 oz., and a little over 20 inches long. A whole lot of hair. Don't worry about that mark on her forehead. It's a bruise. Audrey was "sunny side up" and couldn't be turned over and Brooke pushed for 3 hours to no avail. The bruise is from bumping up against Brooke's pelvic bone. So, about 5:30, they decided to do a C-section.

Brooke, my beautiful and strong daughter, is doing great. She has had practically no sleep since Friday night, but was chipper and smiling at 9 when we left her tonight. What a warrior!

Oh, well. Back to aircraft pix now.


Friday, December 14, 2007


As you can tell, that is not a picture of a baby. Audrey is not cooperating. Looks like Brooke and Michael will be sent home late this aft. Brooke hasn't dilated at all, so the doctor has set up an appointment for 11AM next Tuesday with the idea of putting her back in the hospital Tuesday night and having the baby on Wednesday - by C-section if necessary.

So Brooke and Michael are a bit disappointed, but they know that everything needs to be in Audrey's best interests.

More updates as necessary.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Update on mom-to-be Brooke. After an appointment this afternoon with her doctor, the decision was made to admit her to the hospital at 10 o'clock tonight. If all goes as planned, she and Michael should be proud parents by this time tomorrow.

I remember (vaguely, I guess) the strange feelings I had the night before an addition to our family. It is an almost overwhelming knowledge that in less than 24 hours, our lives would be changed forever. I'm sure Brooke and Michael are thinking about that this evening. They probably will not sleep any tonight, try as they might.

Being a grandparent sure is nice. We will get plenty of sleep tonight.

We covet your prayers for all concerned. For my next blog entry, I will break from my strict custom of posting an aircraft picture. (Isn't that a great one up there?) Hopefully, I'll be able to showcase Audrey Grace Hall in all her glory.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Come on, Audrey

Everyone in the Perkins household is agog this week - awaiting the arrival of Audrey Grace Hall, Brooke and Michael's first and our fifth grandchild. Maybe I'm an old softie, but I find myself not so much in gleeful expectation for another descendent as in apprehension for Brooke. I mean, she's got a lot to go through this week just to get Audrey from Point A to Point B.

I shall never forget a scene in the labor room while awaiting our first grandchild, Zach. Everyone from Zach's daddy to other relatives to the nurses were cracking jokes and having a great ole time...and I looked over at Jenny and could tell that she was absolutely miserable - racked by contractions and totally unable to join in the merriment. I wanted to do a Jesus and the moneychangers routine and just clear the room completely so Jenny could suffer without the insufferables around.

So I'll be wearing my attitude-police garb to the hospital this week. And I'll be pestering the doc to give Brooke an epidural NOW!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Wish I Could...

I wish I could tie a cool knot. Today, I saw a guy throw two Christmas trees in the back of a pickup and then go get some twine and a knife. He quickly cut the desired length, looped the cord through the proper eyelets on the truck, lashed the trees securely, and proceeded to do something I never learned how to do: tie a cool slip-knot so that all this entanglement could be undone with a flick of the wrist.

My daddy saw to it that I learned the most important stuff. A stellar public education followed by four years at ACU. I clearly remember when he bought us a set of used encyclopedias. The year was 1960 and the encyclopedias were copyrighted in 1936. Anyway, academic matters were almost as important as spiritual matters.

But Dad wasn't "handy". He didn't work on cars and had very few tools. And he must've not known about knots. Because I've gone 59 years without knowing how to tie stuff down. I'd almost trade my sheepskins for the ability to tighten a rope and quickly fashion a gorgeous knot that could be undone in half a second. And sadly, I've left my sons in a similar condition. You can't pass on a talent that doesn't exist.

Now I know why I was so envious of Boy Scouts.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Things Thought About While Driving a School Bus

My favorite kind of field trip is the one where I drive kids in kindergarten or first grade to some event. They are usually inner city kids and nearly everything that happens to them on the trip is new to them. For some, it may be their first time on a school bus.

This week, I picked up a busload near downtown Dallas and immediately went through the "canyon". It got dark inside the bus and the bright amber lights in the tunnel were whizzing by. I heard sixty little kids say in unison, "Oooooooh"!! The sad thing is, they are so small, their little heads don't stick up high enough to see much while riding the big ole bus. But I love their innocence.

Much more problematic is the task of maintaining order while transporting 60 middle-school boys - something I get to do twice a day. The trip home is always more of a challenge that the morning ride. In the afternoon, all the pent-up energy is just dying to be released. My job becomes trying to delay blastoff until I can get them off the bus. Of course, just as in teaching, it's incredibly important to begin the year off right. Mess that up and you'll never regain discipline. But now it's months into the year and each ride is a ticking time bomb.

I try to establish an atmosphere from the moment the boys start arriving at the bus. I sit at angle in my seat and make eye contact with each one as he gets on the bus. I will speak if I think I need to work on rapport with some kid that may be up to something. I also look for anything that doesn't belong on the bus. In my 25 years of doing this, I've confiscated water balloons, sharpened sticks, a shepherd's staff (got me...the kid said he was Moses), pets, and one bottle of whiskey.

I've also had kids I was scared with such a degree of anger or bitterness that I do everything I can to avoid confrontation. I'll let them get away some stuff that others can't. I can't afford any Phyrric victories while halfway between the school and bus stop. Better to make mental notes and write up the offenders the next day.

The hardest thing I do is to concentrate on driving a large vehicle in traffic while keeping one eye on sixty hormone-engorged adolescent boys. I guess it's inevitable...I've had times when I've looked up at my wide mirror to check out a disturbance on the bus only to look back at the road and see my bus about to rear-end another vehicle that has suddenly stopped directly in front of me. Somehow, I get the bus stopped and 60 boys have to peel their faces off the seatback in front of them. I always begin each trip with a prayer...and God has saved me a few times.

Someday soon, I relate the events of the day when a speeding car hit one of my students as he got off the bus. God was around that day, too.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


For years, one of my pet peeves has been the steady decline in what my mom calls "a good hand". In her generation, penmanship was as important as stoking the wood furnace in the middle of the schoolroom. And it showed. Just check the handwriting of the average person over the age of 70. You will see a glorious, intelligible, graceful style that flows like a stream downhill. (Sudden thought: If our Founding Fathers had penned the constitution with the typical handwriting of today, would anarchy reign because we couldn't read what they wrote?)

The handwriting of the average middle-schooler today is, well, atrocious. And don't give the argument that this is a direct result of the move from notebook paper to a keyboard. This skill has seen a steady decline that borders on neglect. In the '60's, primary students were getting an average of 45 minutes a day working on handwriting. Today, the average is 10 minutes and only 12% of their teachers have ever taken a course in how to teach it.

And now we know that insisting on good penmanship is more than just a personal preference. There is growing evidence that handwriting fluency is an important building block of learning. Studies are showing that when kids struggle with handwriting, it filters into all their academics. Spelling becomes a problem; math becomes a problem because they reverse their numbers. I'm so encouraged that the folks who produce the SAT have added a written essay question. The thought is that with something like a writing test on the SAT, there will be a trickle-down effect to middle schools and eventually the third-grade classroom.

A great quote from the Newsweek article from which I gleaned the above info: "If we stop teaching penmanship, it will not only hasten the day when brides acknowledge wedding gifts by email; the bigger danger, they'll be composed even more poorly than they already are."

Monday, November 26, 2007


As per my doctor's orders, I slept in my recliner 5 days, ending last Tuesday. It was about then that I noticed a couple of pimply-looking red spots on the top of my forehead. Didn't think much of it, even when a red splotch began to encircle the two spots. I thought it was just one of those strange things that appears then goes away a few days later.

I think you know where this is going. By Thanksgiving Day, the area was quarter-size and getting very angry-looking. By then I was convinced this had to be related to a spider bite of some kind. About two weeks ago, I killed a large brown spider a few feet from the recliner that looked like pictures I'd seen of brown recluse spiders.

The red area has slowly grown and now has tiny blisters appearing. This is getting a bit alarming! I've got an appointment with a family practice doctor this afternoon at 4:20. This guy is a real outdoorsman and I'm hopeful he's got good experience with this sort of thing. I would think that the source was a brown recluse were it not for the fact that I've had no symptoms other than the red area smarting and stinging. This is getting curiouser and curiouser. I'll report in on what the doc says...unless he puts me in the hospital...I hope that's a joke.

LATER: Back from the doctor and the news is good, kinda. I've got shingles. The symptoms really are similar to the recluse spider bite...but the fact that I had two lesions pretty much ruled out the spider since they nearly always bite once and then move on to another meal. He said people who've just had surgery are susceptible because their immune system is down a bit. So I'm on a strong antibiotic and steroids. The sad thing is that I'm contagious. If I spread the virus to a child, then the poor kid will get chicken pox...and I've been holding Macie (9 months) all day.

So I guess this is what I get for using the internet as my doctor.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


The contrasts between Thanksgiving Day and two days later are amazing. The same food which made us squeal in delight now sits there brooding in the refrigerator, as unattractive as a blind date. The din created by 27 guests has been replaced by a deafening quiet that makes Carole and me long for our grandchildren to bring their mayhem back to our den floor.

Thanksgiving is perhaps the best holiday of all. None of the artificial, materialistic frenzy seen during the Christmas gift-giving madness. The focus really is on giving thanks, even for those who don't know our Savior. The ritual of gathering at noon with family, eating at one o'clock, visiting until the Cowboy game, and then segregating the sexes during's a pattern that seems worthy of repeating every year.

It's almost a given that there is a new addition to our gathering every Thanksgiving. This year, the fresh face belonged to our angelic fourth grandchild, Macie. Next year the newbie will be Audrey, our fifth g'child, due around three weeks from now. We are beside ourselves in anticipation. Poor Brooke just wants her to hurry up and get here.

The shoulder hurts all the time, but I know it's normal and that it will continue to hurt as I do more with it every day. Can't start rehab until Dec. 3rd and that's a bit frustrating. Seemed everyone who greeted me on Thanksgiving slapped me right on the socket as a greeting, sending me into a coyote-howling mode.

Now, the focus is on getting all our family and friends back home safely. And then we'll get into the official Audrey countdown.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Post-Op Report

Hey, checking in. All going well. Got the bandages off and staples out. Most interesting note from the discussion with the doc was this: Dr. Aldrich said that when I was under anesthesia, he tried to raise my right arm above shoulder level and couldn't. So glad I was under when he tried that.

He decompressed the shoulder, whatever that means, and opened up the capsule, whatever that means. I'm to work on small range-of-motion movement from now through the weekend. Then next week I start rehab...three times a week for three weeks.

My dream to pitch in the major leagues in my '60's is alive!!!

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Pilgrims were males...

I'm sittin' here in awe of my wife.

Of course, I'm still helpless, unable to do much of anything due to the surgery on my right shoulder. Meanwhile, Carole has both grand-daughters to manage...all the while getting the house ready for Thanksgiving. We're having nearly 30 family members here and naturally, we want the place to look good. Today, Carole has made two trips in the car to run various errands and continued the household chores as well. Her stress won't end until a week from now.

Meanwhile I sit, watch, and admire.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Day Two

First off, I hope you can click on the above photo and enlarge it. It is now my new wallpaper.

Post-op day 2 has been okay. I didn't sleep well last night. My right arm was totally numb and added to the inconvenience of sleeping in the recliner. I'm into a brief (I hope) time of nice pain because the IV drip into my shoulder has been completely depleted.

But this is not complaining. A brief time of personal inconvenience does wonders to tune me in to the millions of folks who face much, much worse incapacitation on a daily basis...and with no end in sight this side of eternity. What enormous blessings good health and working parts are! We should awaken every morning thanking God for what we have. And open our eyes to those who silently suffer every day and do what we can for them.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

No pain, much gain

I'm back from the shoulder decompression and feelin' fine. This is less due to my strength of character than to the implant of a pain-killing drip. I'm also hooked up to a tube that circulates ice water around the area. And I'm typing left-handed, which looks like a caffeinated rooster having a sneezing fit in front of a keyboard.

Pre-op was routine. I told the anesthesiologist that if I started seeing a tunnel with a bright light, then I'd know he screwed up. He did not smile. I then recall a period of grogginess that lasted 6 or 7 seconds, then poof...woke up in the recovery room to a nurse saying, "Hey there, big guy!" I immediately was astounded by being pain-free. I've awakened in many a recovery room to sheer agony so this was very cool.

I asked the nurse if the color of my new prosthetic arm looked okay and she failed to see the humor either. Eventually, Carole and I got to leave. She took me to a Sonic since I was beyond famished. Upon leaving there, we had our first post-op crisis. I dropped my straw down between my seat and the door. So she stopped the car, got out, came over to my side, bent over, and started fishing for the elusive straw. It was way down there below the track and she got into immediate trouble. Her wedding ring got stuck between two metal parts of the track. It took her two painful minutes to extricate the ring and the one-cent straw. I just had to sit there and watch with the forlorn feeling that care-recipients have when they're helpless to help those helping them.

Anyway, all is well. Thanks for the prayers. But I may be calling you when the pain-drip runs out.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Scope of the Thing

Finally going to get the shoulder scoped on Thursday. Day surgery. Seems simple enough, but I have this ominous feeling that it's gonna be a bit more painful come Thursday night than I'd originally thought. But it's gotta be done if I'm ever going to resurrect my pitching career.

I'll check in with gripping updates. The part of having surgery I hate most is the fasting prior to going in. By far. You think they'd notice Reese's Peanut Butter Cups on my breath?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

"Intermediate" Heaven

In my prior blog, I mentioned Randy Alcorn's idea that when we die, we will go to an "intermediate" heaven. Here is what he says, mostly in his words:

When a Christian dies, he or she enters the intermediate state, a transitional period between our past lives on Earth and our future resurrection to life on the New Earth. By definition, an intermediate state is temporary. It is not our final destination. Though it will be a wonderful place, the intermediate heaven is not the place we are made for. God's children are destined for life as resurrected beings on a resurrected Earth. In the intermediate heaven, we'll await the time of Christ's return to the earth, our bodily resurrection, the final judgment, and the creation of the new heavens and new earth.

The future heaven will be in the human realm...on Earth. The dwelling place of God will be the dwelling place of humanity, in a resurrected universe. "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth...I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God...And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God." (Rev. 21: 1-3). God will relocate his people and come down from heaven to the new earth to live with them. Rather than our going up to live in God's home forever, God will come down to live in our home forever.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Straight on your heaven theories?

I kinda thought I had nailed down this heaven the point that I taught classes on it at church. The crux of my teaching was that even though we don't know a lot about heaven, just trust God and he will make even floating on a cloud seem like cloud 9.

But I've been reading Heaven by Randy Alcorn and I'm coming over to his ideas. This book is a real tome, a scholarly but readable volume that is the result of 25 years of study on the matter by Alcorn. What he has shown is while the Bible is not expansive on the topic, it is much more illuminating that we've suspected. And it's not just Revelation, either. The O.T. is illustrative and so are various N.T. books.

Here in a nutshell is what Alcorn says. There is an intermediate heaven to which we go when we die. It is not our final destination. Our final destination, coming after the judgment, is a new earth. This new earth is actually our present earth except with evil and the consequences of evil forever removed. We will have physical bodies which will have sight and hearing just as now. The pattern here is Christ's resurrection body, the one that was just like his former physical body in many respects and totally unlike it in other respects. There will be trees, mountains, and music. There will be work and relationships, all in total perfection.

Alcorn doesn't spend but a paragraph or so on 1000-year reigns or the lack thereof. He feels it is inconsequential to the discussion.

I'd like to expound on this in subsequent blogs...I just don't know whether I can adequately handle the matter in such a limited space and still do it justice. If you're brave, get the book and settle in for a study that may take months. I'm not even halfway through and I've spent dozens of hours reading and pondering its theses.

One thing is for sure. I'm hyped up about the prospects!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Carnival Atmosphere

Carole and I have just returned from Highland Oaks' annual parking lot carnival. It's really a big deal. Numerous giant inflatable games and exhibits are brought in. There is face-painting and tossing balls at stacked bottles. The food is free. Literally thousands of folks buy a $3 ticket for admission.

The purpose, of course, is to build goodwill in the community and hopefully make a few contacts that result in positive spiritual benefits. In other words, use the carnival to introduce people to Jesus.

Is something like this a wise use of the congregation's money? Perhaps it's worth discussing. It costs a bunch of money...I'm sure just buying insurance for such a big event is staggering. But it does introduce, even in a small way, the community to Highland Oaks. They know we're here and they know we're a friendly bunch. My question to the readers is: Even if none of the thousands of guests ever darkens the doorstep of the church, is such an effort still worth it because of the goodwill created in the neighborhood? Is it worth it just for the sense of teamwork it builds within our fellowship? What do you think?

I know this sounds like I'm negative toward the annual project. But actually I'm not. I just don't know enough about whether actual productive contacts are made and I would like to know that before I decide. Again, what do you think?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tough scriptures: Part 2

36"But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. 37For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."

How many words do we speak in a day? Kinda depends on the circumstances, I guess. When I taught school, I'd come home some days unwilling to utter even a simple sentence like, "I'm unable to fathom the hopelessness of my task at hand!" I wonder what the average number is for the average American - 10,000/day?

What terrifies me is the realization that most of my words may be careless in nature. Of course, Jesus is probably referring to important situations where words will have impact, either positive or negative. "Honey, I'll get the mail" probably doesn't qualify. But we'd no doubt be surprised how often we can alter situations or relationships with our choice of words. I certainly am turned off by negative folks who spew negative words constantly. And how many of us have learned after the fact that something we said flippantly turned out to have stung someone to the core?

My greatest careless word problem has to do with constantly trying to be witty and to make people laugh. This probably means I have deep insecurity and feel the need to win acceptance through humor, as though I couldn't get it any other way. The problem is that I often cross the line by becoming sarcastic, trying to cast someone in an unfavorable light by putting them down...anything for a laugh, you know. It's high time I reined in this dangerous habit. As the verses in Matthew 12 say, there are consequences, eternal consequences.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Plane Nuts

Reporting in on Saturday's airshow. Best thing I could have done was have Steve Leaming alongside. We talked about everything and his ridiculous puns kept me in stitches. Before we parted ways, I told him how much I appreciated his company. That I sometimes go months with no one to talk to about aviation and that it kills me. He answered the need.

The weather would have been okay but for the wind. It howled so much that the Army paratrooper performance had to be cancelled lest some of their jumpers land in Kansas. We stayed for the last group, the Blue Angels. Imagine going 400 mph on a windy day with 3 other jets 15 inches from your wingtips and then imagine banking that way in a tight curve. These guys are beyond great.

More to say, but I've got jury duty tomorrow and I'm worn out from yesterday. Maybe I'll have something interesting to report about from the Rockwall courts soon.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Plans for Saturday

Just a note that on Saturday, I'll join good friend Steve Leaming and head to Ft. Worth for the 2007 Alliance Air Show. I've been to one in my life and it almost killed me. The miserable story of that experience is here.

Hopefully, we won't have any trouble with the heat. Also hopefully, I'll get good shots of the amazing Blue Angels and bunches of other daredevils.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Two things have conspired to leave me a bit down lately. One is the stuff I see on a daily basis in the bus pick-up areas. The other is the rash of grim news stories in the past few weeks from just the Metroplex. It causes me to ponder about the unseen battles going on between the forces of good and evil.

What I have to guard against is the idea that Satan is winning. I do see so many apparent victories for this agent of darkness. Families being ripped apart, infants being discarded or killed, folks taking delight in causing hurt or harm.

But I try to remind myself that there are just as many, if not more, victories for God and his angels. Often, they have defeated the enemy in some unseen, unrecognized way - and thus I'm unaware of what has happened. Sometimes, however, the victory is obvious. I won't detail it here, but I've seen several situations lately where I said a prayer, urgently begging for His angels to do something very specific. And against all earthly odds, the good guys win. What a joy rushes through me when I see tangible evidence of God's power!

Of course, in the end, Satan will go down for the final time. Evil will be eliminated from everything, replaced by God's consuming presence. All will be love, light, and joy. Every fiber of our being, every nerve ending, will be wired for eternal ectasy. No more pain, disappointment, anger, or fear. An eternity of glory! Bring it on!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Tough scriptures: Part 1

22Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Colossians is filled with practical Christianity - tons of a advice on how to exhibit Christ on a daily basis. I'm fine with all the inspired guidance except for this above challenge from the 3rd chapter. If I were to put it in today's vernacular, it might go something like this:

Listen. At the work place, work as though your boss is Christ himself. Never take advantage of your employer. Work the same whether your boss is looking over your shoulder or on vacation in Cancun.

Most of my time with DISD, I gave my all. Most of the time. But there were plenty of times I shirked responsibilities because I knew I could get away with it. As the years piled up, I got more and more cynical about my bosses downtown and my immediate superiors in the building. So I justified my actions by saying to myself, "They are stupid in educational matters and indifferent to my plight as a teacher. Therefore, I have every right to slough off whenever possible and even sabotage their efforts".

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. God expected me to be the same worker every day, and it shouldn't have mattered that I couldn't work up any respect for those over me. It shouldn't have mattered that often their course of action was totally wrong. It was incumbent upon me to work as though I were reporting to Christ himself every day, which, of course, I really was doing.

This is such a challenge for us. So few of us work in ideal situations. Most of the time, there is an ogre somewhere above us in the organizational flow-chart. God says it doesn't matter. The implication is that through our commitment, we will win over the ogres.

Tough scripture, eh?

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Just some things I've been thinkin' 'bout...

!. I've written a bit about the extreme poverty I see every day on my bus runs. One of the sadder sights is a Tuesday and Friday occurrence. Those are the trash pickup days in the Grove, and every household rolls out their City of Dallas-issued garbage receptacle to the curb. This attracts a pitiful horde of shabby guys who push grocery carts around, going from bin to bin, digging for aluminum cans, food, or anything that has value. It is truly life on the edge.

2. My mom's doctor is a source of endless angst to me. For the last two appointments, he has finally seen her exactly 1 hour, 20 minutes after her appointment time. We see him again on the 23rd and if he pulls this again, I plan to stand up to him like a man, whatever that means.

3. I had a field trip to Fair Park last night, taking a volleyball team to a district game. I had the opportunity to look at folks leaving the Fairgrounds after a full day of merriment. They were the most beaten down folks I've ever seen.

4. I spend entirely too much time worrying about language and usage. I wonder if anyone ever says "wreak" (pronounced "reek") without using the word "havoc" after it. And why is it pronounced "reek"??? Does anyone anyone ever say "quagmire" without sticking "veritable" in front of it?

Friday, September 28, 2007

When we see Him...

I'm pleasurably rereading a book entitled "Deadline" by Randy Alcorn. I thought I'd share a striking passage found on page 50. It describes what is seen by one of the book's characters after entering heaven and seeing Jesus:

"This was the ageless one, the Ancient of Days, who is eternally young. He stepped forward, and at his first move the crowd quickly and reverently made way for him, as flimsy shacks make way for a hurricane. This was a good hurricane, but no one mistook goodness for weakness here. He who had spun the galaxies into being with a single snap of his finger, he who could uncreate all that existed with no more than a thought, extended his hand to Finney, as if the hand he extended was that of a plain ordinary carpenter. Everyone knew he was anything but ordinary. His riveting eyes commanded their full attention. All eyes were fixed on those eyes. For the moment, it was impossible to look elsewhere, and no one in his right mind would have wanted to.

'Welcome, my Son! Enter the kingdom prepared for you, by virtue of a work done by another, a work you could not do. Here you shall receive reward for those works you did in my name, works you were created to do.'


And then, with a smile that communicated more than any smile Finney had ever seen, the Great One looked into his eyes and said with obvious pride, 'Well done my good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord!'"

Kinda got to me.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Hard Lives

Every school day, for a couple of hours, I see them. They are the castoffs from an affluent society and they are more numerous than you think. Their lives are immeasurably tougher than you can imagine.

There is Pleasant Grove and then there is deep Pleasant Grove. I see both. The former is bad enough to be intolerable. The latter has to be seen, smelled, and heard to be believed. Deep Pleasant Grove is awash in the detritus of what had been a middle class area in the 1950's. The Main Street of deep P.G. is South Buckner Boulevard, a thoroughly ugly artery that has a new check-cashing store added each week. I counted 28 used-car dealers between Lake June Rd. and Elam Rd, a distance of less than two miles.

It's the people that alternately touch me and disgust me. I've seen a certain woman three times now on the peculiarly named "Antoinette" St. She is an elderly white woman whose gait and mannerisms fairly shout mental illness. She appears to weigh 80 pounds at the most. She is always carrying something in a plastic bag. My guess is that she is returning from a trip to the convenience store up the street and that the bag contains the bare essentials of her food supply. It breaks my heart.

I see welfare mommas entering the campus of Frederick Douglass Elementary. Since this is my fourth year to run this route, I've come to recognize many of them. They are perpetually pregnant. More often than not, they are also hand-in-hand with two toddlers...and they're arriving at the school to pick up the child(ren) in kindergarten. Their faces bear the marks of struggle...not necessarily physical marks, but displaying defeat, remorse, and anger. They don't know life, they know survival. They are ill-equipped to reverse or even slow down the cycle of poverty, children, and transient boyfriends.

I am as far away from a solution to all this as east is from the west. Where would you start? I mean, what is the first thing that needs to be done? Should we be more concerned with their physical plight or their souls? I haven't even a whimper of a clue. I do know how good it feels to get in my car and return to the land of plenty. And how bad it makes me feel.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Purest Joys

Try as you might, you can't have better experiences than these:

Reading a great book and still having half of it to go

A hot shower after a tough day

Sinking your taste buds into a Reese's peanut butter cup and knowing you have one of them left

Observing from a distance a son or daughter doing something exceptionally well

Having your spouse alongside to share special moments with

Hearing hundreds of voices praising God. You can almost feel yourself drifting closer to God.

Holding a baby that's been smeared with baby lotion

Holding a baby, period

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Anything for a Date

I had a field trip last evening, taking the Woodrow Wilson volleyball girls to Loos Fieldhouse. About 30 minutes before their games were over, a very pleasant young man appeared at my bus and asked if he could put a sign on the side of my bus. I inquired as to what kind of sign - he said there would be a message on it asking one of the volleyball girls to go out with him to Woodrow's homecoming game. Since I was bored, I said, "Sure!"

He walked off to get the sign and reappeared later with a professionally-done, heavy paper sign that must have been 15 feet long. In big red letters, it said,

Heather Smith

H O M E C O M I N G?


I helped him tape the sign to the side of the bus. By now, the girls were due out any minute. He asked if he could wait inside the bus with me so he could see her reaction. Of course. I wouldn't miss this! Directly, out came the girls and there was instant high-school girl squealing. Reed laughed as Heather put her hands to her face in joy. He ran off the bus and Heather jumped into his arms, yelling, "Oh, Reed. I love you!!"

Crazy kids. Cute kids.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Signs and Wonders

Here's an article that has caused me to want to study it further:

Fascinating topic, don't you think?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Recovered Weekends

When I reflect back on my weekends as a teacher, I get a knot in my stomach. Toward the end of my teaching career, I was swamped with students. It was nothing like the beginning of my career when I had small classes and not a lot of take-home work to do.

But just two years ago, I was teaching six straight classes without a break, save for lunch. And I had so many students that extra desks had to be brought in to hold them. I believe I topped out at 193 students. Just between us folks, that's several carloads too many.

So by the first weekend of the school year, I was bringing home mountains of work to grade. When you have that many in a room, you just don't have time to even begin grading papers during the period. So my weekends consisted of sitting in the recliner with a seven-inch tall stack of papers, grading them one by one. Often, I didn't have enough time to finish, and I'd begin the week in arrears. Those ungraded papers would hang over me like Edgar Allen Poe's pendulum, slowing slicing away at my outlook on teaching.

It was one of the main reasons I retired a couple years ahead of when I wanted. Needless to say, I enjoy my Sats and Suns so much more these days. I have my life back.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

You have to read this...

Forget that it's written by a baseball player. Just read it.