Last summer while we were on vacation, we made some new friends in Arkansas, Bill and Darlene. They live on a beautiful farm in the Ozarks. They didn't always. When they first moved to Arkansas, they lived in a fairly primitive cabin along the Buffalo River, and Darlene told us that one of their neighbors was a classic Ozark moonshiner. He invited them over for dinner a number of times and Darlene said they finally ran out of excuses. Well, when they got there for dinner, the moonshiner told Bill, "Now you go pick out what chicken you want for dinner out there on the front porch." Bill did and the moonshiner just shot it down dead right there on the front porch. And then they came in and the moonshiner and his wife cleaned and prepared it right in front of their guests. Darlene said the jam on the table was alive with flies covering it totally. Well when their host offered them a taste of his moonshine, Darlene said, "I was really tempted to drink some to kill whatever I just ate." After dinner, the moonshiner was sitting in his rocking chair in the living room talking with Bill. Bill noticed some large holes along the floor of the cabin and he asked how they got there. The moonshiner said, "Well, we got mice," and he said, "I decided I'd stay up late and I'd sit here in my rocking chair. I'd see one. I'd pull out my gun and I'd shoot it."

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    It was one of those ministry trips where I had to take my office with me. I had my files and my computer, and I was going to three different cities so I had to be prepared for everything - from cold weather to hot weather. In other words I had a lot of luggage. I've got this one garment bag that ends up stuffed to the gills sometimes. I've actually introduced my bag to airline agents as Big Bertha! Well I was loaded with heavy baggage that day as I was paying my hotel bill. I looked over at the door I was going to be using to leave the hotel and to catch the van to the airport, and there was a problem. There was obviously no handle on that door. I had a heavy load and a door with no apparent way to open it. A problem? Of course not. You know what happened. As I walked toward that door, it opened all by itself, but I did have to walk toward it.

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      Recently I was having lunch with my friends Scott and Brenda, and they told me that the view had really improved at their house recently. They told me that everything in their backyard had looked so dirty and so dingy for a long time until the other day. They did something that totally changed the view. They cleaned the big window that looks out on that yard. When you're looking through a dirty window, everything looks dirty.

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        A dog and bubbles make a very amusing combination. I think my wife discovered this first when our little Shih Tzu dog was just a puppy, a new member of our family, the only one with four legs, and she was still discovering her world. My wife went out and got one of those containers of bubble lotion - you know, with the little wand that you could blow bubbles out of. We used them when we were kids. Missy cannot resist those bubbles. She'll kind of pounce there on the floor on a bubble as soon as it lands, and she attacks that thing. Of course, when there are some in the air, she is watching them come down. She's in an attack mode. The problem is that the bubbles disappear as soon as she gets to them. She starts to attack it or to put it into her mouth. It's gone - leaving this bewildered dog sniffing and searching, and she's looking up into the air at the rest of the bubbles coming down. She wastes an awful lot of energy looking for them.

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          During the winter it's really nice to think about a beach and all that sun. Of course the easiest way to cook yourself on the beach is to be there on a cloudy day. You say, "I don't feel a thing." But let me tell you by experience, the rays are still burning you. That's actually what happened in the tragic aftermath of that meltdown of a nuclear facility in Chernobyl in Russia a few years ago. Remember, thousands of children were invaded by invisible radiation and they didn't feel a thing. But after awhile they began to lose hair and their skin began to change. They got increasingly deadly symptoms, and finally many of them died. They were gradually destroyed by something they couldn't even feel.

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            Every once in a while, I'll drive off in our car and I'll feel this strange lurching sensation. You see, my wife is big on using the emergency brake, and she will often remember to put it on. I will often forget to put it on. It's just not part of my car starting ritual to turn off the emergency brake because I don't usually engage it. So here I am driving off with the brake on and lurching all around. It is a good idea to release the brake. It is hard to go the speed you want when the brake is holding you back.

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              I guess every neighborhood has its bully. Well when I was growing up, I'll tell you our neighborhood did. "Boomer" this guy, made all us little kids in the neighborhood his victim. So he would beat us up, you know, tower over us and threaten us, took our stuff. And frankly I've got to tell you, one day I had had enough. Yeah, oh yeah, I was little - he was big, but I marched all the way down our little block on the south side of Chicago. I went up the steps on that back porch. I pounded on the screen door on the back of his house. Boomer came to the door, and I said, "Boomer, I want my stuff back." You say, "Man, you were a brave little kid." Well, ah, there's one thing I forgot to tell you - my ah Father went with me. You see, that made a very big difference. Boomer was bigger than I was, but my Father was bigger than Boomer was.

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                Communicating across the miles these days is amazing, and occasionally frustrating. Not too long ago, you know, you would just call someone, and if they weren't there, you would try later. Ah, today, we have answering machines that talk to answering machines. We have voice mail. And it's helpful, but let's face it, it is frustrating sometimes isn't it? Now I'm Mr. Low Tech you know, and so I continue to be amazed by fax machines. You can transmit your letter or your document on a phone line. I don't get it, but it's great. Then there's e-mail, and who knows what's next in the next few years. Now occasionally there are glitches. Someone gave me a phone number the other day I needed, and so I dialed, and it rang, and this high pitched squeal suddenly is hitting me in my ear, and I said, "What is wrong, is the phone out of order?" No, no, no, see it was the number for this man's fax line. It's not a telephone line really, where you make calls - you send faxes on it. So I just got squealed at. See like a lot of people, he has this one phone line that is totally for receiving faxes. It's not designed for having a conversation with guys like me. It won't work for phone calls. It's called "The Dedicated Line" as I discovered with an earful of squealing. A dedicated line is for only one purpose.

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                  "Wake up kids!" We were in a campground, and it was 3:30 in the morning. I didn't want to wake up the whole campground, but I did want the kids up in the middle of the night. You ask, "What are you doing to your kids?" Well, I had planned a trip up Cadillac Mountain, and it took about an hour to drive to the top of it. I had been told that was the first place you could see the sunrise on the east coast. I wanted to do this, and I thought this would be a great adventure for my wife and kids. Well, they were not quite as enthused as I was, especially when I woke them up. I had thought ahead and had donuts, so as they woke up, I stuffed a donut in each mouth so they wouldn't wake up the campground. Then we started my well-planned adventure up Cadillac Mountain. Finally, we made it to the top, and there, on the eastern horizon, in that chilly, early morning air, we were rewarded with an unforgettable view - of the clouds. I had listened to the weather forecast. They promised me the sun. I had a family insurrection on my hands. We never did see the sun that morning. Well, I had made my plans, and gone to a lot of effort. I got to the top of my mountain, and missed what I thought I would find there.

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