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.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

September is a good month...

If you're fairly old, you remember Harold Taft, chief meterologist of Channel 5 for a couple of decades. Harold, bless his soul, was keen on, "You can't get a cold front in north Texas with a hurricane in the Gulf." Well, I'm not exactly the weatherman Brother Taft was, but I have a saying that is famed inside the Perkins walls: "The first cold front of any magnitude will hit September 21."

And what joy it brings. It usually means the end of upper 90's temps. It ushers in nighttime temperatures in the 50's. It usually means rain, as cool air and warm air don't get along and bang against each other knocking rain from the clouds.

There are other changes. The routine of school is now firmly established, ending the awkward nervousness in August felt by students and teachers alike. People seem invigorated again, showing signs of life after another oven-baked summer. The Fair opens. (I must digress. The Texas State Fair has as much attraction for me as the Dallas Museum of Arts...meaning less than none.)

And, grocery stores start creating their annual Halloween aisles. Wouldn't be surprised if by September 30th, Thanksgiving aisles aren't also displayed.

And, if you lived in northern Vermont, you witness the beginning of flaming fall color, something that has to be seen to be believed. Carole and I have seen it 3 times together. Our fantasy has been to have a house on a hillside in Vermont, looking out over a valley awash in color. Oh, well. One can dream.