It took place in the 1960s - when a lot of strange things took place. It was an experiment where some scientists placed some dogs in a cage, the floor of which was wired to generate an electric current. The scientists locked these dogs in the cage and then they activated the current. It was strong enough to shock the animals, but not to injure them. Needless to say, every time the electricity went through that cage floor, the dogs jumped around and yelped in pain - for a while. It wasn't too long before they got used to the shock, and their only reaction was just a slight twitch. At that point, the scientists opened the door of the cage. But when they turned on the voltage, the dogs just took the shock again - not one of them got out, even though the door was wide open. Now, they had been hurt so many times, they were just conditioned to it. The final step in the experiment was to send a dog into the cage who had not been conditioned to that voltage. As soon as the current went through the cage, that new dog yelped and made a mad dash out the door of the cage - followed by all the other dogs.
Usually when someone has received a death sentence for their crimes, you can count on it years of legal appeals to try to stay alive. That's what makes the true story of a prisoner named George Wilson so amazing. He was convicted of killing a Federal guard during a robbery. But public sentiment at that time was so strong against capital punishment that he eventually received a full pardon from the President of the United States. But, unbelievably, when the pardon was brought to him in his prison cell, he refused it! The Supreme Court was actually called upon to decide how this very strange case should be handled. And they ruled that a pardon is a piece of paper whose only value must be determined by the one receiving the pardon. George Wilson died for what he had done - because he refused to accept his pardon.
The National Park Service called it a "controlled burn" - they set a fire near Los Alamos, New Mexico to remove 900 acres of dry trees and brush. But the controlled burn got out of control. It destroyed some 5,000 acres of private property and parkland, it caused the evacuation of the entire population of Los Alamos, and it destroyed some 200 homes. And saddest of all, the Weather Service had warned the Park Service that there would be high winds, high temperatures, and low humidity - prime conditions for a fire to spread. But apparently their warnings were ignored, and a fire they thought they could control did more damage than they could have ever imagined.
I must confess, I never thought I'd live to see the day when it would happened, but it did - and the whole world saw it. It was that awful wall in Berlin that was there for so long, where so many East Berliners died trying to escape to freedom in West Berlin. No one tried to escape to Communist East Berlin. The Communists erected that ugly wall to keep their people in, covered it with barbed wire, and guarded it with vicious dogs and vicious guards. Most folks, I believe, thought that wall would always be there. But almost overnight, in those dramatic days in 1989, (you can probably picture it in your own mind), the people were allowed to demolish that wall. It was one of the most dramatic moments of the 20th Century. And in the streets of Berlin, 100,000 people chanted four words over and over again - "The wall is gone! The wall is gone!"
Every year as the President of the United States delivers his State of the Union Address, he introduces some everyday heroes in the balcony who embodies a point he's making. Actually, that custom began the night President Reagan introduced a man named Lenny Skutnik. To this day, reporters ask Presidential aides, "Who are the 'Skutniks' this year?'" Lenny Skutnik was one of thousands of Federal workers in Washington, D.C. - until the day Air Florida's Flight 90 crashed into the Potomac River.
By far, the most exciting moment at Cape Canaveral is the launch of a space mission. You hear the man in Mission Control counting down, "3...2...1...Liftoff!" Then there's that huge cloud of smoke at the base of the rocket. Then you can see the blazing fire lifting that rocket and its' precious cargo off the pad and into the sky. It's a very impressive sight. But that's not the end of it. You don't just say, "Great launch. Let's go home." No, no. All that fire and smoke isn't just to have a powerful experience - it's to launch a mission, to make some things happen that would never otherwise happen.
I think I was a kid the last time I saw a three-legged race - it was at a Sunday School picnic. I resurrected the three-legged race a while back to illustrate a point to a group of teenagers. In case you've missed the thrill of a three-legged race, here's how it works. The racers run in teams of two. You tie the left leg of one to the right leg of the other, and they run the course as best they can like that. Run might be a slight exaggeration. They skip, they shuffle, they stagger, they limp - but run? Not really. It's really hard to run when you're tied to someone else who's slowing you down!
As a kid, I often rode my bike up to the old theater on 79th Street for the Saturday afternoon flick. But this day was different. They handed me this strange-looking pair of glasses, made of cardboard with tinted plastic lenses. Those goofy-looking glasses opened up a whole new world where the events in a movie no longer just stayed flat on the screen - they leaped off the screen and right into your face - in 3-D!
When we secured land to build our Ministry Headquarters, we barely noticed the barn that was standing on that land - until God blessed us with some truckloads of donated materials - which needed a place to be stored. Suddenly, we were taking a second look at this old pole barn filled with hay. The center was the only part that had walls - walls with rotting wood. The east and west sides of the barn had no walls, just some rotting old poles holding up a makeshift roof. We asked a contractor friend if there was any hope for the barn - especially since some folks had said to just bulldoze it. The contractor said the rafters and foundation were good enough that something might be able to be done.
One of our ministry team is a pretty enthusiastic auto-racing fan. If you're into that sport, then you know that Jeff Gordon is one of the best in the business. One of the people that helped him get to that position is the man who has been head of his pit crew. You've seen those high-speed cars swing into their service pit and only seconds later roar back into the race. My racing fan friend told me recently about a TV special on Jeff Gordon. On it, they interviewed the head of his pit crew - who, by the way, has a degree in organizational behavior. He revealed just how amazing the work of the pit crew is in a sport where seconds really matter. The pit crew chief said they will change up to 20 tires in one race - just think of what those speeds must do to a tire! And they change a complete set of four tires in 13 seconds - that's faster than I can finish off a bite of my dinner! The driver is the name everyone knows - but the driver knows he's nothing without his pit crew!