Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Future is Bright

About 99% of the time, I have an aviation picture to lead off the blog entry. But we've been getting photo albums from Mom's house and bringing them to our house, just to be on the safe side. And I found the above shot, taken when I was about six. On a bitterly cold Saturday morning, Dad took me to Union Station, planted me squarely on a Santa Fe "warbonnet", and snapped this picture. It was one of the most exciting things to ever happen to me. And I was so afraid the engineer was going to crank that thing up before I got off.

But that's not what I'm writing about tonight. Our church is in a transition period, having had its former pulpit minister relocate to San Diego and waiting for a search committee to find the next preacher. In the interim, we have had a steady stream of mostly young, incredibly talented men fill the pulpit, pinch-hitting as it were. It's funny, but when you don't get out and about in the brotherhood, you lose perspective on the state of preaching. Somehow, I had developed a small worry that all our great preachers were getting old and would soon be retiring.

Well, if one can make broad assumptions based on the men who've graced our pulpit during this in-between time, we as a brotherhood are doing quite well, thank you. The last two guys are good examples of what I mean. Both ignored the rostrum and basically spoke eloquently for a half-hour without looking at notes. Think about how many words that is. Think of the amount of preparation it takes to pull that off. And both weren't just up there speaking nonsense; every sentence seemed to challenge the audience and there were no "uhs" or "ahs" as they contemplated their next thought.

Now I used to be able to pull this off when I taught Texas History...but I had the benefit of telling the same history stories six times a day for 36 years. Pretty soon, I could do it in my sleep. But it's totally different when you're standing in front of several hundred folks, sharing a message that six days prior wasn't even in the formative stage. I'm in awe of these guys.

But way more important than the speaking and memorization process is this - these guys are driven by the Holy Spirit and are truly messengers of the gospel. I can almost picture Paul, sitting on the 4th row, stroking his beard, nodding in approval, and nudging the guy next to him, "These guys are good...real good!"

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Post-Black Friday post

Well, it's 7:34 on Saturday morning and I feel like I'm obligated to have another blog entry. Trouble is, I'm not sure what's blog-worthy today. My ideas are either too trivial to post or too involved to even start. So I guess I'll scattershoot.

1. Carole and I have had a lot of wonderful time together this week. With all the concerns about my Mom lately, I've spent a lot of time away from home. A lot of days, I've been getting up at 5 AM and getting home at 6:30 PM. So we've made up for it by running all our errands together and generally acting like giddy honeymooners. I hereby suggest that the last week of every month be like this.

2. This move away from daylight savings coupled with the days getting shorter anyway plays mind tricks on me. I'm picking up my first students in the dark and driving home in darkness in the evening. And when the sun goes down, my body feels like it's time to shut down for the day. It definitely doesn't want to go swimming in the evening. Which leads me to my next point...

3. I've got a bad case of tennis elbow, brought on by too much swimming. Now I can't swim at all, can't lift ordinary objects with my left arm, and have trouble gripping things with my left hand. And the only cure, apparently, is rest. I had so gotten into the exercise mode that it kills me now to have to lay out. Plus, we all know that it's a lot easier to lose fitness than to gain it back. Bummer.

4. I have a lot of respect for the workers at a nursing home. It takes special people to show love to elderly folks who can't do for themselves anymore. I've been very impressed with the people working with Mom.

5. I had thought that the current state of the economy might cut into the post-Thanksgiving shopping craze. Guess I was wrong. What does it say about America that we trample workers to death just to get stuff on sale? I would dearly love to have all Christmas gift recipients restricted to just children. Can we all agree that gift-giving has gotten out of hand? And don't call me Scrooge.

6. I haven't taken a photo of an aircraft since early October. And it's killing me.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

It can be done...

When I taught at a large, urban middle school, one of the most dreaded events was any kind of program or assembly. It didn't matter the nature of the program, be it a Christmas play or pep assembly or MLK remembrance. The 7th and 8th graders treated this as a wonderful opportunity to go crazy. These were kids who didn't behave in most of their classes, so why expect them to suddenly morph into angels when 700 of them were squeezed into an auditorium?

I've seen very respectable speakers booed. I've seen principals stalk out, unable to gain control of the horde. There were times when I stalked out, having had my sensibilities violated by what some consider "cultural activities". I deemed it laciviousness.

But there is hope. Today, Carole and I did our first "Grandparents' Day" at Dallas Christian. The highlight was a two-hour program featuring choral and musician groups. We sat amazed as group after group entered the stage area and took their positions. Not one child of the hundreds we saw showed any inclination to be anything less than angelic and professional. No one clowned around. No one elbowed the kid next to him to point out someone in the audience. Nobody pulled a frog from their pants or flicked the ear of the girl in front of him. And their performances were stunning. Everyone showed self-control, discipline, and pride.

I wanted to stand up and scream, "It isn't like this everywhere!!" But then, that wouldn't be showing self-control, discipline, or pride.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Whatta Day #2

Mom's house was burglarized today. Fortunately, it was sometime between two visits I made to the house about 4 hours apart. Nothing of value taken except a TV and a converter box. Numerous drawers pulled out and dumped on the floor. One busted door leading from inside the garage to the kitchen. Perps gained entrance through a window pane in a garage panel (they busted it out).

We're very blessed that Mom was, of course, not present, that I was not present, and that damage/loss wasn't as bad as it could have been.

But pardon me while I sigh mightily.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Whatta Day...

Okay. I'm a retiree who now does a job I enjoy. So a bad day for me ain't so bad. But today stretched my patience.

I'm currently driving the bus of my dreams, D824. It's a fantastic bus that has been prone, however, to glitches. This morning, while it was still very dark, the bus overheated at the corner of Lamar and Corinth. That makes two times this year I've had malfunctions on Lamar St. Twenty minutes later, a mechanic arrives, notices the bus has no coolant, sees a leak, and declares the bus inoperative. The bus lot dispatches a "spare" bus for me so I can proceed on. BTW, I always arrive very early for my run...just in case something breaks this morning.

The spare bus broke my heart. It was P3066, a 14 year-old dog with 148,000 miles on the odometer. And, it had been sitting on the lot for months, unused, with its windows open. There was a nice layer of dirt and dust on every seat. I hurried to my first stop. The waiting girls climbed on with scowls on their faces, having gotten used to plush D824. I had them stand as I took the only rag I had and did my best to scrape the filth off the seats. It was ugly but I got the kids to school on time.

A fellow driver took pity on me and loaned me decent bus for a field trip I had today. Every school has to have hands-on bus evacuation training, and today I was dispatched to Truett Elementary. Teachers are supposed to conduct the training, but upon arrival, I got the news that they wanted us, the bus drivers, to do their job. So, I spent the day teaching groups of 50 kids at a time on how to save their lives if the bus stalls on a railroad track...or worse.

I returned to the bus lot in hopes of getting D824 back. I figured it had a leaky radiator hose, easily fixed. Nope, they said. "Your fan is tore all to h___ and water pump is busted. It's so bad, we're bringing the manufacturer here tomorrow to look at it." Oh, brother. That meant I had to drive another "dog" this afternoon. They gave me D226, another 14 year-old bus with 142,000 miles on it. At least the the seats were clean, but the floor was covered with enough detritus to fill a dumpster. So for the second time today, I was Molly Maid, doing a cleaning job that the previous driver passed on to me. It ain't supposed to happen that way, but I work for a pretty loosey-goosey organization.

I have another all-day field trip tomorrow, taking a group to far southeast Dallas County to an environmental center way out in the woods. I'll start the day in another "dog", but fortunately, a co-worker has agreed to let me drive his very nice bus for my trip. It had better be a better day.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The purpose of pain

Fantastic service this morning at Highland Oaks. Lynn Anderson spoke about giving thanks during tough times. That sure is a tough assignment! I guess my tendency is to see a tough situation as all negative. But the scriptures tell us to be thankful at ALL times. We have to discipline ourselves to refocus on all the positives in our lives rather than dwell on the tough situation.

Another part of this morning's experience was the singing...the songs were all about finding peace in difficult times. I get emotional during HO's singing anyway - the praise team is beyond belief and Chad Higgins, the leader, is superb. And I'm a softie for great choral performances. But this morning's theme and beautiful singing really touched me as for the first time, I let out the repressed feelings about my Mom. Soon, the tears were flowing - not so much for my situation, but for hers...and then we sang "When Peace Like a River" and when we got to the last verse about the clouds rolling back and the Lord descending and well, I was a mess.

I know I don't HAVE to understand why Mom is going through this stress at a time when she hasn't the mental or physical strength to cope with it. I keep returning over and over again to my favorite scripture, II Cor. 4:16-17:

Therefore, we are not discouraged; rather, although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Another update on Mom

Not a lot of blogs lately and not much else except updates on Mom. Her situation is consuming the family and we are putting a lot of time and effort into making sure the correct things are being done for her. The emphasis all this week has been to see if we can get her into an assisted-living apartment at Christian Care Center. There are a couple of rooms available but we found out today that Mom must first put in the necessary therapy before she can be discharged to go to assisted living. The estimate we have is 14-30 days.

Meanwhile, I started today removing important documents from her house. I'm trying every way I know to make it look like someone is still in the house, but we don't want a burglar to ransack the place and destroy a lot of important records and memorabilia. Kind of a sad task.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Update on my mom

After a week in the hospital getting her heart-rate regulated, Mom was discharged yesterday. I took her back to Christian Care Center and she's back in her room. The newest task now is to decide where she goes from here.

We were under the impression that Medicare would cover her up for up to 120 days of rehab. But CCC is not designated as a rehab center. It's a skilled-nursing facility. As a result, Medicare will pay only for the first 20 days. Mom's insurance helps a little bit after those 20 days are up. We need to get a handle on what Mom can and cannot do for herself and then go from there. It could be that she can handle an "assisted-living" apartment there at CCC, a place where she could have her own space but have help nearby.

We kids have talked a bit about returning Mom home and having some level of home health care. But we are a bit leery of having strangers in the house and whether this idea is doable.

If any readers of this blog want to comment on any experiences you have had with your parent(s), I'd love to hear from you.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Reflections on the Election

1. This election proves how our society values looks over substance. Obama would have lost to Abe Lincoln in 1860, back when what a candidate said and believed was pretty much what got him elected. McCain's looks, voice, and age didn't connect with the younger voters.

2. The only real conservative voice in this election was Sarah Palin. I believe that had she been the presidential candidate and McCain the V-P candidate, the Republicans would have had a better chance of winning. Also, in retrospect, Mike Huckabee might have been the best option for the GOP. With Huckabee's ability to think on his feet and his overall courage, I think he would have destroyed Obama in the debates. McCain was reluctant to nail his opponent on his associations with Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright. Obama was vulnerable on abortion and tax policies, but McCain couldn't pull the trigger.

3. Way too many religious blacks voted for Obama simply because he was black. That was the over-riding factor - not his positions on the issues. He could have said some really outrageous stuff and they would have voted for him fact, he did and they did.

4. And finally (and I'm struggling with this), I just don't get the Christians who voted for a gay-marriage supporting, pro-abortion candidate. Did his glibness, his attractiveness, and his political party trump these enormous liabilities? How can a Christian respond and say, "Yeah, but I felt the country needed a change, a fresh voice"? How will that person feel if Obama gets to replace two Supreme Court justices with two pro-choice jurists? And how about this sticky question: With such a stark contrast between the two candidates and their stances on abortion and marriage, should our churches have gotten "political", urging their members to examine more closely these critical issues? I don't know. Personally, I feel that if I voted for Obama, I would be complicit in the murders of untold numbers of precious lives. No way would I do that.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

What to pray for on the morning after...

This will be a 4-year only presidency for Barack Obama. With his outrageous ideas, the economy will insure that. So what should we be praying for now?

Easy. Pray that Obama does not get to make any selections for the Supreme Court. Should he get that opportunity, he will choose someone who is pro-choice and extremely liberal.

Want some good news? How 'bout this. The folks in America who are anti-family and anti-morality are not having any kids. That's not a pure absolute...a couple of them have one child, but that's about it. Meanwhile, Christian families are having kids, lots and lots of them. The liberals have noticed this and are worried about the fact that they may have only this one generation to get their screwy ideas implanted in America. Because the moral wave is coming, brother. (And the sooner the better.)

Mom's back in the hospital

Yesterday at the nursing home, Mom's heart-rate went sky-high (152 beats/min), so they transported her back to Baylor Hospital. I don't have much to report yet since I haven't talked with her doctor or the head nurse yet, but she is resting comfortably at the moment. They did get the heart-rate down to normal while in the ER yesterday.

One thing making this more difficult is Mom's confusion. She simply doesn't recall much of anything that has transpired in the near past. This means that she has to be told constantly where she is and why she is here. It must be awful to wake up in the morning in a strange room and not understand where you are. So please pray for her in this difficult situation.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Questions for the Obama supporter

I don't even know if any Obama supporters read my blog. But just in case, I'd like for you to answer some questions. I'm not trying to pick a fight or act condescendingly to you. I honestly want to know your thought process on these issues:

1. Does Obama's stand on abortion bother you? Do you put the mother's rights above those of the child in the womb?

2. Does Obama's association with Bill Ayers bother you, or do you take him for his word that Ayers is merely a guy who lives in his neighborhood?

3. Do you feel any qualms about Obama's ties with Jeremiah Wright and his racist rantings?

4. Is the fact that much of Obama's academic career remains under lock and key bothersome to you? Is this at all suspicious to you?

5. Can you name something Obama has accomplished in his political career?

6. Does his view of Iran bother you?

Again, I'm not trying to bait somebody into a flame-throwing contest. The above questions are the kinds of questions Republicans are asking during this election season. If a Democrat can respond with frank answers in the same spirit in which the questions were asked, I would love to get your viewpoints.