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.

Last week I was going through the all too frequent ritual of standing by an airport luggage carousel, waiting for Big Bertha - that's what I've named my suitcase since we spend so much time together! Suddenly the monotony was broken for all of us by this really cute scene - try to picture this. Here comes one of those luggage carts that looks sort of like a big grocery cart without the big basket, pushing it is this very little boy, still in pampers, barely able to walk - about one-fourth as tall as the cart.

Actually, the boy thought he was pushing the cart, actually his Daddy was right next to him with his hands on the bar above his son's head. Now, the cart was staying on a straight course, it was moving at a good speed...and finally the little guy got frustrated because he wanted to push on the handle bar which was way over his head. So in order to continue the illusion of "little boy pushing" Daddy picked him up, held him horizontal and let him push on the bar. But, needless to say, his father kept one hand on that cart, of course! Despite the way it looked to this little cart jockey, it was his father who was really making it happen.

My wife's dad didn't want the holly bush by his carport anymore, but my wife did. Dad said if we would dig it up, it was ours to transplant at the little Ozark farmstead that my wife inherited from her grandparents. Sounded simple. It wasn't. It took shovels, a chain, a pickup truck, and some major engineering to get that stubborn bush out of the ground and into the truck. Well, we quickly transported "Holly" to the farm, immediately dug a new home in the ground for her, and got her replanted. Then my wife poured on the water and the nutrients. See, just removing that bush from where it was turned out to be only half the battle. We had to get it replanted quickly in new soil - or it would never make it!

If you've ever had a teenage son, you'll know this answer. When a teenage boy gets home from school, what's the first question he asks? "What's for dinner?" Now one of our boys' unfavorite answers to that question was that dreaded "L" word - leftovers! That was especially scary after Thanksgiving, when we found it seemed like that turkey would never end. Now leftovers aren't too many people's first choice for a meal. Right? And the longer they've been left over, the more unsatisfying that choice becomes. I know I've never been to a restaurant who offered an item called "leftovers" on today's specials, or anywhere on the menu for that matter. Let's face it. They're second best - at best.

There's this little bare spot in the grass in our backyard. It's been there since our boys were little. That was the first home plate they ever knew. Yes, that's where I taught them their first lessons in how to play baseball. Now our backyard isn't very big, so we had to start with a plastic bat and that little white plastic ball called a wiffle ball. But as I pitched and our boys learned to swing, there was one lesson I tried to permanently tattoo on their brain. It was the lesson my father taught me, that his father probably taught him, that somebody has taught every person who ever picked up a baseball bat - the most basic secret of success in sports...keep your eye on the ball!

            

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Harrison, AR 72602-0400

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