You may remember it as an '80s TV hit series or the movie version. They called it "Fame," and it's back as a new movie. It's a story of some kids, struggling for perfection at this New York City performing arts high school. And if you remember anything, you'll remember the driving title song. I'm not going to sing it, but it says, "Fame! I'm going to live forever. Baby, remember my name."
Well, it's time to put away the short sleeves and bring out the old long sleeves and, of course, to enjoy those changing colors and raking all those leaves. Actually, I love this time of year, and I love watching all the seasons change.
My friend worked with young people on a Southwest Indian reservation for fourteen years. As part of his ministry, he'd get them out of the rez world they knew and take them to a youth camp I spoke for in the Rockies. It was my first real contact with Native young people - the seed of what would become our groundbreaking On Eagles' Wings ministry. My friend told me that those young people were so touched by God at the camp that they would do something Native kids just don't do. They would sing and even compose Jesus-songs all the way home until they got to the border of the reservation. He said the Jesus-songs stopped at the border of home.
Our sons used to come home from high school football practice hurting in places that they didn't even know they had places. Their coach worked his teams hard, and even in the August heat. But he built champions! He told them he was building a "fourth quarter team" - the kind of team who is still strong in the last quarter when other teams would be fading. You could hear it on the sidelines when it was clear that the fourth quarter was going to decide the game, "The fourth quarter is ours!"
The season's changing again. Summer's a memory, fall's here, and winter's not far off. I'm a four seasons kind of guy; I love them all. Of course, the season changing means we have to change, too - like our clothes, our clocks, our schedule, and our recreation. Each season has its unique beauty and its opportunities. And each season has its particular hazards and adjustments. But we need them all!
Cheerleaders! What would football be without them? Even if they sometimes don’t know which team has the ball, you know? But there’s one thing you can count on. No matter what happens on the field, you can count on the cheerleaders to always be on your side.
Our kids used to love to go to the circus. Now they take their kids to the circus. One of the much-hyped highlights of the circus is those death-defying acrobats on the trapezes above the center ring. It's breathtaking to watch them make that daring leap into space and onto the next trapeze. I imagine it's fine as long as you're hanging onto that first trapeze, and when you've grabbed that next trapeze. What's scary? That would be the time between trapezes.
For years, I had the privilege of working with, and our son had the privilege of playing for, a championship football team at our local high school. They had been almost an automatic win for the other team until the new coaching staff took over. And in one season, they turned those boys from losers to champions. But as good as they were, the coaches never scored a single point in a single game. The game ultimately had to be won or lost by the players on the field.
I got to laugh at some of those drug commercials on TV. They'll spend about 20 seconds telling you all the wonderful things their product will do for you, and the other 40 seconds telling you all the awful things it could do to you. First, "you'll feel so much better," then, "may cause hair to fall out, teeth to decay, or a lung to collapse; side effects may include hearing loss, brittle bones, nervous breakdown, or sudden death." They don't want to tell you that stuff; they have to tell you. It's a truth-in-advertising law.
I think I saw that painting when I started going to Sunday School as a little boy. It's Jesus, standing in a garden, knocking on this big oak door. Actually the first people to see what became that famous painting were the friends of the painter, Holman Hunt. He reportedly gathered them together to unveil his masterpiece, and he got plenty of "oohs" and "ahhs" from his friends - except for one. That friend said, "I like the painting, but I think you made a mistake that you may want to correct. You forgot the handle on the door." To which the artist smiled and replied, "Oh, that's not a mistake. See, when Jesus knocks on the door of our hearts, the handle is on the inside."
You either went on a missions trip in recent months or you probably know someone who did. I've heard the testimonies of people as they return, and they're just like glowing. When you're on a missions trip, prayer seems more powerful, the Bible seems more alive, people get closer, God seems more real and powerful, and you feel more fulfilled because you've done something eternally important. God's used you to actually change some lives! No doubt, a missions trip is like a "Kodak moment" in your spiritual life. So if it's that powerful, why not make your life a year-round missions trip?
When we took our Sunday afternoon drives into the country, I usually had a plan in mind, but I didn't always tell my three kids. I just called it a mystery trip. Well, that didn't cut it with our oldest son. Here came the interrogation: "Daddy, where are we going?" Followed by lots more questions about what we'd eat, how long would we be gone, what was there to do? Finally, I just looked in the rear view mirror, I smiled and answered with two little words, "Trust me."
I love it when our son-in-law just sits down at a piano and starts playing. Those years of music training really pay off when he touches a keyboard. I had the privilege of being at his senior recital in college, and it was a memorable performance. After wards, there was a line of people up there congratulating him on that performance. Oddly enough, I did not see anyone complimenting the piano.
My friend Rick had a day he could go hunting. Unfortunately, he couldn’t find his glasses. So he grabbed what he could find—his wife’s glasses. At one point, he positioned himself in a tree, put those glasses on so he could use the sight on his rifle, and finally, he decided it was time to get out of that tree. He looked down, and said, “Okay, it isn’t far, I’ll step down.” Well, in his words, “I just kept falling and falling and falling.” He had the wrong glasses on, so the ground looked a lot closer than it really was.
One hour before our friend Linda called for prayer, she, her husband and brother - valued co-laborers in God's work, had just been in a serious accident - a triple rollover. Her husband, Scott, had been sleeping in the backseat and he'd been rushed from the scene with massive injuries. Linda was injured herself, but at least she was able to call. She commented that the accident had given her the opportunity to talk to five of the first responders about a relationship with Christ. A few days later, as her husband was in one of several major surgeries he needed, her daughter wrote, "Right now, Mom is sitting with a technician, telling him about Jesus."
She grew up in a remote corner of the Navajo Reservation where they spoke little or no English. Like so many Native American kids of her generation, she was taken from her home and made to go to a boarding school far away. The bad news: they forced her to learn English and forbade her to speak her own language. The good news: a dream was born while she was there. First, she was required to attend a church, where thankfully, she gave her heart to Jesus. Secondly, she read "Dick and Jane" books, and those books showed her a bigger world where, as she tells it, there were bathrooms indoors and lives where people did something other than take care of sheep. And she decided to go for it. She graduated from high school, then college; she's taught school for many years and, as a single mom, raised two strong children who really love the Lord; one of whom serves at our Headquarters as a gifted young Native leader.
Our daughter and our three-year-old granddaughter were looking at a friend's wedding pictures. And our little princess, who loves to get dressed up, asked if she could have a dress like that and be like the girl wearing it. Well, Mommy explained that someday Jesus might give her a man who loved Jesus that she could marry and be like the girl in that dress. Her reaction: "How about next Sunday?"
My wife’s a Southern gal; I’m a Chicago-born Yankee. So when we visited the Civil War battlefield at Gettysburg, we bought a blue Union cap for me and a gray Confederate hat for her, which we hung on our respective motel bedposts. Is that what they call “consorting with the enemy?” I don’t know, but… I heard about this one guy in the Civil War who came up with a questionable plan for survival. He decided to wear a blue shirt and gray pants, so he managed to get shot at both ends!
Our son-in-law opened his Father's Day card from our ten-year-old grandson and found an acrostic of his first name. Now, each letter gave our grandson an opportunity to reveal some of his perceptions of his dad. For example, for the letter "R," our grandson wrote: "Refreshed after Mommy kisses him." Our son-in-law said, "How do you know that?" And his son simply pointed to his eyes with two fingers and said slyly, "I see it!"
For people in South Florida, Andrew will long be remembered as one of the most destructive hurricanes of all time. His 250-mph winds just tore buildings apart, and as always, some amazing storm stories came out of Hurricane Andrew. Like one family of ten who were found buried under the rubble of their Florida home - all alive! The father told what sustained them as they saw and heard that storm just ripping their house apart around them. He said, "We felt we were going to die, so we just kept yelling that we loved each other." That's what enabled them to hang on.
The teacher was late that day in senior French class, and our daughter and her classmates had just gotten their senior pictures. So, the girls starting pulling pictures out of their wallets. Now, our daughter had two pictures that were especially interesting to everybody. Her seventh grade picture…you know, braces, kinky hair, big glasses. Seventh grade, you know. Then her new senior picture: radiant smile, beautiful long hair, big blue eyes, no glasses. That was good for a lot of laughs, including our daughter’s. Well, the teacher walked in. She took one look at those pictures side by side and she said, “La miracle!” The miracle.
It wasn’t easy to get out of going to school when I was a kid. I mean, my Mom said the deciding factor was I had to have a fever, which led me to wonder, “How can I induce a fever on a day I don’t want to go?” Well, I had what I thought was a clever idea. Sit on the steam radiator in our apartment when the heat was coming up. I tried that once. Did I get a fever? No. Did I get blisters on my bottom? You got it…yeah!
Romance doesn’t seem to care about convenience; love will go wherever to be with the beloved one, right? Take our son, for example. The woman he fell in love with and ultimately made our wonderful daughter, lived many miles down a rough and rutted gravel road across open range, and across dusty desert terrain. He was dodging cattle and jackrabbits on every trip to his honey’s house. In the first leg of his trip to her house, he was on this nice paved highway. And if all he cared about was a smooth ride, he could have stayed on that road, right? But it wouldn’t have taken him to the destination he wanted—the woman he loved. There was only one way to get to her—the rough road.
We have a hummingbird feeder, so we have hummingbirds and they’re amazing little guys. They’ve got wings that move faster than you can see, and they hover, fly backwards and sideways, and they love sugar! They’ll drink the sugar water concoction in our feeder and then fly off in a burst of acrobatic energy, only to return a few minutes later for a refill. Apparently if they go very long without some kind of sugar fix, they become sort of catatonic or birdatonic. Here they come again chirping, “Must have sugar! Must have sugar!”
My friend David is from Mexico, and the hotter his food, the more he likes it. So one day, one of his friends asked him to try a pepper that he’d never tried before. He warned him it could be a little hot. David said, “Sure, man! The hotter the better!” So, he gobbled it down. He said, “It tastes good, but it’s a little lame, man. Pretty mild.” For about five minutes, at which time the fire broke out. My friend with the asbestos taste buds was about ready to put a hose down his throat. Yes, this pepper has a little delay mechanism built into it. But when it fires up, it’s like a 911 for your mouth. And when he could finally talk again, David asked what they called that pepper. His friend said, “Oh, we call it The Liar.” I guess.
Not long ago, I spoke on the stage where I had once graduated from college, with you know like Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble and the guys. At that commencement, they honored the top scholars in our class of about 300. When they announced the name of the salutatorian of our class, most of us said to ourselves, “Who?” Until she stood up, hardly anyone had ever heard her name, let alone known who she was. Of course, that didn’t change the fact that she was one of our best and brightest.
The other day I got the news that one our grandchildren may need a potentially risky major medical procedure. And after I got the news, I’ve got to tell you, my mind began racing ahead to some troubling scenarios. Somewhere in the middle of my “how are we all going to handle this?” tailspin, I found myself giving myself a wakeup call. “Hey, Ron! Stop it now!” That was the mental slap I needed to arrest my descent into Worry Valley.
When the terrorists flew a plane into the World Trade Center that September 11, Genelle Guzman was one of the thousands trying to make it down those long flights of stairs to safety. She made it to the 13th floor when the tower came down. The next thing she knew, she was buried under rubble in a dark and dusty tomb, surrounded by some who had died and unable to move much of her body. She was there for 28 hours. Ultimately, she cried out to God to save her. Not long after that, she heard a noise above her. It was rescuers digging, and then a hand poked through that rubble above her. She grabbed that hand, and the rescuer said, “I’ve got you.” Genelle Guzman was the last person carried out alive at Ground Zero.
On September 11, 2001, Stanley Pramnath was trapped on the 81st floor of Tower 2 at the World Trade Center. The plane that crashed into that building collapsed offices all around him and Stanley ended up trapped under a pile of sheet rock. And he prayed, “Lord, save me. I don’t want to die.” Brian was a broker who was escaping down that long stairway when he heard Stanley’s cries for help. And even though he was battling asthma and dust allergies, Brian stopped and went to work to free Stanley. They both got out alive! Later Stanley said, “I’m alive today because of Brian and the goodness of God.”
You hear the word a lot these days, “He’s being deployed.” The military is sending him to some spot in the world to serve his country. Usually, when U. S. troops get deployed somewhere, it can really change the outcome. Of course, there are some forces ready to be deployed that always change the outcome.