I looked, I blinked, I looked again, and I still wasn't sure what I was seeing. We were driving next to a railroad track when I saw a vehicle moving along the railroad track, but not a train. A pickup truck. He was moving right along down the track like a train, but a truck? Trucks have tires, railroads have tracks. Tires don't ride on tracks. Well, as I looked closer I realized what was going on here. This was a maintenance truck for the railroad, specially modified to run on tracks. It was mounted with special train wheels extending out from both the front and back of the pickup. So because he had been specially outfitted, he was able to go where he normally could never go!
Who would think you'd miss a fleet of big brown trucks? Man, if they say UPS on the side, you'll miss them if they're off the streets for long! That's what America found out when the UPS drivers went on strike. Within hours in some cases, days in almost every case, thousands of UPS customers were in a crisis. I couldn't believe what the strike revealed, that 80 percent of America's packages, at least before the strike, were carried by UPS! Apparently, all the other guys were fighting it out for the other 20 percent. On the first day back after the strike, I'll bet some of those drivers were greeted with a standing ovation by some of their customers, "You're back! We're saved!" What a mess it was, huh? Businesses were almost on the ropes in a few days. They were manufacturing their product, the folks on the other end needed their product. But it wasn't happening. A sender and a receiver aren't enough, if the person delivering it isn't doing their job!
A few years ago I was touring an American Air Force base where they have housed nuclear missiles and B-52 bombers for many years. Along the way, the briefing officer told me something that made me very happy that the Cold War between us and the Soviet Union is history. Because it turns out that the Cold War almost got a whole lot hotter. My host told me about a couple of instances during the 1970s when our planes thought the U.S. was about to be under nuclear attack. In one case, the tracking seemed to prove that, so our pilots scrambled into their bombers, armed with nuclear weapons, and took off to retaliate against the Soviet Union. Obviously, that never happened, but the planes were actually in the air. The problem was in a little computer chip that had created an error in communications. It's pretty scary. There could have been bombs dropped, based on erroneous information.
You think you've had a bad day recently. Let me tell you about a bad day. It's the summer of '97, you're a cosmonaut on Russia's space station Mir. While you've been there you've already had to battle a fire on board. Then a supply ship runs into you in a docking procedure and you lose 40 percent of your power. You've already had your fill of bad days for one mission. But then, one day the central computer on the space station suddenly shuts down and suddenly you are tumbling through space in what reporters call "chaotic flight." As you know, I'm not making any of this up! The day that computer failed, it threw those cosmonauts into a particularly dangerous situation. That space station is solar-powered and all of a sudden, as one reporter put it, it lost its orientation to the sun. Which means you don't have the power to meet the demands of your flight and worst case your life is in jeopardy. Why? All because, as CBS News said, Mir turned it back on the sun.
My farm girl wife has a high tolerance for pain. "I know," you say, "she's married to you." I mean physical pain. She seldom complains and I often don't know how she's hurting. But she has had almost constant pain for the last eight years and it would flare up in different parts of her body, sometimes becoming almost paralyzing and unbearable. A lot of remedies and treatments took their turn trying to help her get better nothing worked; the flare-ups continued. Until recently. She is so thankful, she says with this big smile, "I am pain-free for the first time in eight years." What happened? Our family doctor went to work in diagnosing the problem and he concluded it was something called fibromyalgia. And once our doctor diagnosed what the real problem was, we could start working on some real relief!
What mental picture comes to your mind when you hear these words, "They keep going and going and going." Do you see this rabbit with sunglasses? Do you hear the drumbeat from the bass drum he's beating on as he moves across your TV screen? Then the people who created those Energizer battery ads have succeeded! Actually, batteries are a pretty boring thing to advertise. But most of us have watched with amusement as this particular brand of batteries keeps that crazy bunny going and going and going.
"Should I call her, Dad?" That was a common question as our boys were teenagers. Like most boys their age, they were unsure of what kind of response they would get from a certain girl. I can remember at that same stage staring at the phone for 45 minutes and thinking of the most suave way possible to start that conversation. But when I heard her voice, I would just croak out this "hello." Now there were a couple of girls I just picked up the phone and called, no problemo. It was the same with my sons. There were these rare girls who just knew how to make a guy feel - well, safe.
There is nothing quite so exciting as an exciting night at America's busiest airport - O'Hare. My goal was relatively simple - get on my plane and fly home. Easier said then done. The radar had suddenly gone down that night and there was only one runway open. I was frustrated because I could not get out of the airport. But pity those poor people up there who couldn't land. At least I could go outside and walk around. That's tougher when you're up there in the sky. We could see the lights of those planes and they could see the lights of Chicago down below. They were almost there, they could see their destination, but they weren't on the ground. Some circled so long they eventually had to be diverted to another destination that they didn't want to go to. Oh, the frustration of being almost there, but not there.
Dino and Nanette are dear Navajo friends of ours and now they're Mr. and Mrs.! How we wanted to be at that wedding because these are two very special friends, two very special Native American Christian leaders. We couldn't be, but our son, who lives near where the wedding was in New Mexico, called that afternoon and described the wedding to us, as well as any man can describe a wedding. I choked up when I heard about their wedding vows. Dino made his vows to Nanette on bended knee. Nanette made her vows to Dino and then handed him a beautiful Navajo blanket. But this was not just any blanket. It had belonged to her father who died several years ago and it represented a relationship and memories that she treasures. This blanket was Nanette's father's love gift to her. And in this moment of commitment now, she was handing her new husband this most precious treasure from her most precious person. In a sense, she was handing him her heart.
If you've got a house, you may complain every once in a while about the constant upkeep. It seems like as soon as you get one thing cared for, something else needs attention, the windows, the roof, the yard, the plumbing, the paint. Well, be glad you're not in charge of the maintenance of the Golden Gate Bridge. Not long ago I was standing by San Francisco Bay, admiring the impressive beauty of that great bridge, when someone told me what it takes to keep it impressive. Like 35 painters! Every day! That's all they do! The trucks roll out early every morning with another load of that distinctive orange paint and for eight hours a day those 35 painters are somewhere on that bridge, keeping it in good shape. Things deteriorate so fast, it takes constant effort to maintain the beauty.