Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Live from Houston - It's Hurricane Ike!

As I write this, I am sitting in my wife's office in Bellaire, Texas, working on my computer using her network. My house was undamaged by the hurricane, but my yard and my neighborhood is a mess. My school has a hole in one classroom roof, but my district is closed for the rest of this week. It will be a while before we have power due to the numerous trees that took down power lines and the power poles that were snapped like twigs.

I am considering myself extremely blessed to have come through all this without a scratch. When I think of all that could have happened, I can live without electricity for a while - especially with the wonderful cold front that came through yesterday.

But some tough questions remain...and I have decided not to settle for simplistic, bumper-sticker answers. Here we go:

1. Where is FEMA? That is the question on everyone's mind. The Salvation Army is working hard. So is the American Red Cross. Even the local churches are busy serving everyone. So where are the feds? They knew this storm was coming...but they still seem unprepared. Who are these people?
2. If we learned so much from Katrina and Rita, then why are the same stupid problems occurring again? Not enough gasoline in the right areas, local officials who seem to be "on their own," and people who ignored very direct warnings to evacuate and now have to be rescued. We are pretty predictable, aren't we?
3. Why oh why do the same fools (insurance spokesmen, FEMA reps, etc.) keep repeating their web sites on the radio? Most of the area doesn't have electricity - let alone Internet access. I have grown weary of counting the number of times the hosts of the talk-radio shows ask the person who is talking if he/she has a phone number instead of a web address. Get a clue! People need help, not some web site that is not attainable. And while you're so busy patting yourself on the back for having a working web site, how about having some more people to answer the phones? I haven't met anyone yet who can reach ANY of you on the phone numbers you eventually provide.
4. Why are the individual Americans always the ones who save the day? I'm talking about the people who just show up to cut up fallen trees, unload and pass out ice and water, or just set up their barbeque pits and start cooking for all the "first responders" who are trying to help us all out? I just love those people!! They are wonderful!! They aren't even organized and they do a better job than the feds.
5. One final question: if George W. can't even help out his own state, his own people, his own corner of the world, shouldn't folks who live in other places be worried?

I know I am angry right now, and I really don't care. I am so blessed - but I have not forgotten those who are struggling. My heart goes out to all of them, and this message is for them.

Monday, September 1, 2008


Boy do I know how my students feel about testing now! And I don't mean the TAKS test either!
In my seminary class, I just finished taking the midterm exam. I studied and studied. I memorized all kinds of information (only because I knew the test contained lots of detail). I quizzed myself. I outlined nine chapters. I had my poor family members quiz me - including my son during a three hour car trip back from San Antonio.
And how did I do? I got a 73.5!
I was crushed. I came out of that test feeling like I had done well. I knew I had worked hard...but more importantly I also knew I had studied intelligently and with a plan.
All for a 73.5!
Since this test, I have told myself (and I have had others tell me) it is not the grade...it is what you learn. As a teacher I know that is true. I have certainly learned a lot. But there is something about a good grade when you work hard that is most satisfying. And some day when I can attend seminary full time, I would like a transcript that reflects hard work. And a 73.5 doesn't exactly tell the whole story.
So what to do? Well...I guess I will read even more carefully. I will take copious notes in class and review them. I will ask my fellow classmates for help. I will put myself into my research paper with my whole heart.
And when my own students tell me they really tried hard on a test I give them...and they fail it anyway...I will believe them!

P.S. - I got an A on the final in this class. I also got an A on my research paper. So even with the bad grade on the midterm, I still got an A- for the course...not too shabby!

Hiding Behind the Technology

PCUSA Book of Order F-3.0105:  “… we also believe that there are truths and forms with respect to which people of good characters an...