Friday, August 10, 2001
During a recent summer with our "On Eagles' Wings" Native American outreach team, we had some 5,000 miles to cover in about five weeks. In order to make it to all the reservations to which we had accepted invitations, we really needed a comfortable bus. And God wonderfully provided that through some brothers in Christ. Now our bus driver, Josh, really knew his way across the West, and my wife really didn't. It was often her job to drive another vehicle that we needed. That meant traveling many unfamiliar miles - but she found a way to simplify the process. She just kept her eyes on that bus. If Josh turned, she turned. If Josh stopped, she stopped. She made sure she could even recognize the lights of his bus in case they got separated. She said this trip that could have been so difficult and confusing was actually pretty relaxed and simple. She didn't try to figure out the route for herself. She had a great trip because one thing governed all her choices - following the man who knew the way.
Thursday, August 9, 2001
Our church's youth group had just been out whitewater rafting all day. I had been invited to wrap up the day with an inspirational talk. And when I arrived at the rafting facility they were using, I was expecting to see just the youth group. As it turned out, this recreational company had 1500 people on the river that day from many different groups! So, I wandered around looking lost until someone from our church found me. And that night we had a wonderful get-together under the trees. Now, I didn't know that one girl at the back that had not planned to be there at all. See, she was a Girl Scout who had been there for the day with her troop. And they had somehow gone off and left her all alone. And she saw this group of teenagers meeting, so she wandered over to check it out. And she stayed...and she listened...and at the end, she was one of the young people who indicated they wanted to begin a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Wednesday, August 8, 2001
If you grew up on a farm, there's probably a dog in your memories. For my farm girl, my wife, that dog was a Collie cattle dog named King. King was great at rounding up her Dad's cattle. All Dad would have to do was to whistle that certain whistle, and King would start circling and circling those cattle until he herded them in. But there was a problem. One day a chicken got out, and King killed that chicken - which gave that valuable dog the taste of blood. They tell me if you can't cure that in a dog, you can't afford to keep it. The dog either has to be killed or disciplined so he'll never forget. So Dad took that dead chicken and tied its legs around King's neck with some twine. Needless to say, the dog tried everything to shake that dead chicken, but as the day wore on, the bird he killed did not improve with age. By the end of the day, King's head and tail were hanging low. It's a painful way to learn the seriousness of what he had done...but not nearly as painful as the alternative.
Tuesday, August 7, 2001
When I'm on the road and staying in a motel, I'm often leaving early for that day's responsibilities. But by the time I return late that night, something amazing has happened. The bed is made! I have new, clean towels! Everything is straightened and neat. I even have new little soaps in the bathroom! The Room Fairy has been there! Now, I know that not because I've seen the maid (I haven't), but because I can see the results of her work all over the place.
Monday, August 6, 2001
I'm about 5'8". You probably know that because I sound about that tall, right? Years ago, I was carrying 210 pounds on this little 68" body. Goodyear actually offered me a job as their blimp. But thankfully, I have weighed about 45 to 50 pounds less than that for a lot of years. Of course, I've still got the same metabolism that inflated this body many years ago. So, ohhh, do I know about dieting! And I also know the point at which your diet is in the greatest danger. OK, you've really been good...the scale has been giving you good news the last couple of weeks...your diet discipline is holding. Then somebody offers you something that you just can't resist--let's say, a few french fries. You consume them in one bite. So, you buy a whole order of fries for yourself. And now you feel bad. You have blown your diet. You could just get back on track right then. But no--you say to yourself, "I blew it! I've failed! Oh well, what's the use? I might as well have a milk shake to wash down those fries. Hey, and anybody got the number of Pizza Heaven?" Yeah, you messed up. So you give up--and soon return to your former roundness.
Thursday, August 2, 2001
The lady next to me on a recent airplane flight made me feel good about how far I had to travel that day. I only had to cross the country - she was doing that, too, but she had just connected from Europe to America. But she was still excited enough about her trip to Europe that she was happy to talk about what she had seen there. Frankly, I can only remember one thing she told me about - it was something I'd never heard about before. She had visited some of Europe's most majestic cathedrals. And she had learned that underneath the cross atop these cathedrals, the architects and builders had built in a gold ball. In that ball was a copy of the plans for the cathedral - safely hidden away in case something ever happened to that magnificent structure...so folks would know how to rebuild it.
I was at O'Hare Airport in Chicago, waiting for my flight in the lounge of Gate B6. Me waiting for a plane in Chicago is nothing new. But what was noteworthy was what happened at that gate while I was waiting. Before the passengers from my flight could board, the incoming passengers, of course, had to disembark. I had not expected to see the unforgettable, emotional scene that unfolded as I watched.
It was shortly after the Gulf War had ended, and soldiers were coming home. Clustered anxiously around the end of the jetway were a boy in a Desert Storm T-shirt, a little girl, and a wife carrying a flag with a yellow ribbon attached, and a friend with a vide camera aimed down the jetway. The wife was crying what must have been tears of anxious anticipation as her son was hanging on the corner of the jetway door, peeking down the tunnel. It was actually hard not to watch, and many people in the lounge were doing that just that - some were even wiping their eyes.
As more and more passengers streamed off the plane, the wife was fighting more and more to keep her composure. Then, as a flight attendant came out, the wife asked painfully, "Are there any more passengers?" She said, "Only a few." Moments later, as the last passenger left, that precious wife fell into a chair and melted into tears. I want to tell you, it was a heartbreaking moment. The anticipated reunion didn't happen. The one she wanted home hadn't come home.
It was just one of those shocker stories on the evening news. An American airplane had been shot down by a Peruvian jet fighter. But it wasn't a drug plane like some the Peruvian Air Force has shot down in recent years - it was a missionary plane carrying a young missionary family. The gunfire killed the mother, Ronnie Bowers, instantly, along with their baby girl seated on her lap. The plane went down and, miraculously, the pilot, along with Jim Bowers and his son, managed to survive. Their escape from the crash and the river was amazing - but no more amazing than what happened at Ronnie Bowers' memorial service a few days later. Jim Bowers stood before a packed church and summarized in two words what he was feeling in the midst of this horrible loss and ordeal. In his words - "inexplicable peace."
The folks at our local bakery are some of the most effective marketers I know. They don't give you a sales pitch, they don't have highly creative advertising. They just offer samples. For free - one of my favorite words. I walk in to buy two bagels. There, on a plate on top of the display case, are these little bites of cheesecake, and a little sign that invites me to try one. So, I do. I walk out of that bakery with my two bagels and a cheesecake. Now I hadn't planned to get a cheesecake, but they sold it in the best possible way, just by letting me taste it. The taste made me want the whole cheesecake!
My friend Don is a wonderful family doctor. But some of the greatest moments of his life have been spent, not in a doctor's office, but on the river - preferably a river with some very challenging white water. He's a veteran kayaker and river rafter - with some fascinating tips for us folks who don't have his experience. He told me that, as a teenager, during his first days on the river, he was amazed to see canoes and kayaks just "hanging out" in the middle of these raging rapids. Then he learned the secret of this amazing feat - there are quiet eddies behind some of the big rocks in the rapids. And those canoeists and kayakers had found a place to rest in very turbulent waters - behind a big rock.