I have tried to explain American football to people from another country, and it isn't easy. Imagine a man trying to explain football to his friend who's never seen it played. This friend says, "I'd really like to play football. Tell me about it." "Okay. There's this leather ball, and there's this 100-yard field with white marks. And basically, all you have to do is run from one end to the other with the ball." A month later the foreign friend comes limping up with his arm in a cast, his body covered with bruises and bandages. And then comes the obvious question, "What happened?" And this poor would-be football player says, "You told me about the ball. You told me about the field, but there's one thing you forgot to tell me. You didn't tell me about these eleven human gorillas who would be trying to stop me!"
The truck driver just drove up and dumped it in my driveway, but I was very happy to see it. It was my cord of wood - a winter of warm fires in our fireplace! See, we had ordered it during a special sale, which others apparently took advantage of big time. The driver told me some people had ordered five cords of wood. When I asked why, he said, "It's for their wood stoves. They're depending on it to keep their house warm this winter!" No wonder they ordered a lot of wood for the winter. And when they run out of fuel, they run out of fire. When they run out of fire, it gets very cold.
Each year in my Campus Life club we would have a meeting honoring the football players and cheerleaders - and we had a crowdbreaker that was always good for laughs. We got three cheerleaders up in front and gave them a bag filled with a complete football uniform, pads and all - minus a couple of items that would have been inappropriate. Then, with a player coaching them verbally, they raced to see which one could get all their uniform on first. You don't realize how much gear a football player has to put on until you try to figure out where all those pads go!
If you want to make friends fast at an airport sometime, stand there with a big "welcome home" banner. Recently, we were contacted by a young woman who has been a part of our Native American work in the past - and who is going through a time of severe struggle right now. She really wants to turn things around and asked us if she could come and spend some recovery time with our Team in New Jersey. We had been praying for her, so we were wide open to her coming. Well, we scrambled to find a way to get an airplane ticket for her - and then decided to try and let her know we still think she's special - with a special airport welcome. We got some colorful helium balloons and a bright welcome home banner - and five of us stationed ourselves at the end of the concourse she was scheduled to come in on. It was really funny to watch the reactions of the pretty expressionless arriving passengers - they laughed, they waved, they thanked us as if this welcome party was for them. It was fun - until we saw the last flight attendant coming down the concourse with no other passengers coming behind her. The person we had come to welcome - never came.
Not long ago, I got a wonderful - and unusual - invitation. Gail, one of our ministry's most dedicated volunteers, recently invited us to attend her baptism. Now Gail has known and served Jesus for many years, but somehow she has never followed her Lord in His example of being baptized. Part of that might be because she has always felt very self-conscious about being in front of a group of people. But when she felt her Lord's urging to take this step, she went for it. It was in a church that baptizes by immersion, and she was one of several who were baptized that day. Each one was asked if they had accepted Christ as their personal Savior. They all said yes, but you couldn't hear most of them very well. But Gail was loud and strong in her "Yes, I have!" It was a beautiful moment when, after all these years, she was lowered into those baptismal waters. Several days later, she was back in our office working - and carrying a white handkerchief in her hand. She told me that was the handkerchief she used to cover her nose and mouth when she was baptized. Then she waved it gently and then added a touching "P.S." She said, "This is my surrender flag."
An alarm may be annoying but, face it, most alarms are your friend. The alarm clock in the morning - without which you'd lose your job. The smoke detector. The fire alarm. Now most us don't carry an alarm with us, but for some people, it's a very positive idea. Recently, my wife was in a nursing home on an errand of mercy when suddenly this loud alarm went off. Immediately, a nurse came running to a door where she intercepted one of their elderly residents who was headed for that door. The manager explained that some of their residents are afflicted with serious memory loss or disorientation, so much so, that they have left the building and wandered off, not knowing where they were - including right into the middle of the road! So the woman who triggered the alarm has been fitted with a special bracelet - one that triggers an alarm whenever she is on the edge of a possible danger zone. Apparently, she does remember what the alarm is for. When it went off, she instinctively stopped where she was. That alarm could literally save her life.
If you don't know how to swim, it's just not cool to let your friends know it - and it's just not smart not to. Especially if you're going into the lake with them to swim. This is not theory we're talking here. It's history - my history. The scene was Lake Michigan. The ten-year-old who couldn't swim was me. And I was too proud to tell my friends. Suddenly, as I waded deeper and deeper, I lost my footing, and I began drinking the lake. My friends thought it was funny. They just laughed and said, "Look at Ronnie. He's such a clown!" I was dying. I had gone under for the second time - and I can almost feel the terror of that moment even now as I'm telling you about it. Now obviously something happened or I wouldn't have lived to tell you about it. I was helpless. I couldn't contribute a thing to my getting back to shore. Thankfully, someone came who could. And that rescuer did it all.
As a New York Knicks basketball fan, I've had some victories and some play-off games to cheer for. But I've had my share of disappointments, too. And too many of them have come at the hands of one particular opponent - a player named Reggie Miller. This man has done more to stop my team than just about anybody I can think of because something happens to this man in a close game, when there's suddenly just a minute or two left. He's on fire! He may or may not have had a lot of points earlier in the game, but somehow he seems to save his best for last. With time running out, Reggie suddenly becomes a scoring machine, making fantastic shots, often scoring enough points to send my team home for the season. Any player is a powerful force when he knows the end is near and lights up to makes a difference!
There are two words that will inevitably cause a look of excitement to appear on any face in our family - Ocean City. That's the name of this charming town on the Jersey shore where our family has made a lot of memories over the years. Not long ago, several of us rendezvoused there for a couple of days of time together and making a few more memories. As I was riding my bike along the boardwalk there, I passed some Herculean young men, jogging the boards. Their shirts had four letters on them: OCBP. That's Ocean City Beach Patrol. Actually, they recently celebrated their centennial - not the young joggers, but the Beach Patrol itself. A century ago, as Ocean City was becoming a tourist mecca, the number of drownings began to increase. So, the Beach Patrol was formed. They have a record to be proud of. In 100 years, they have never lost anyone at a guarded beach. Now I do remember a time some years ago when a young Amish woman drowned in the Atlantic Ocean, but that was on an unguarded beach.
Florida has many beautiful things about it - great beaches, great theme parks, great weather. But to be perfectly honest, it is not one of the most exciting states to drive across. We're talking about terminal flatness here. There's nothing wrong with the South Florida landscape that a nice mountain, or even a hill, wouldn't help. Well, in West Palm Beach there is one. A hill, that is. It actually rises to the breathtaking height of 55 feet above sea level. My assistant Gayle has a sister in that area who loves to go hiking on and around this beautiful hill. It's wonderfully landscaped, there's some water there, some biking, hiking, jogging trails, recreational areas. Now anyone who knows the topography of South Florida would wisely ask, "Where did this hill come from?" Garbage. Yup. This lovely spot used to be an ugly, old landfill. But someone had the brilliant idea of making something useful, something even beautiful of what had just been a lot of garbage.