When you visit Washington, D.C., you're bound to see the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the Capitol Building. But there's this one side trip to Northern Virginia that's an important stop...at least for every American. It's Arlington National Cemetery where this endless sea of white crosses reminds an American of the high price of freedom. That price is beautifully dramatized every hour at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier - with the Changing of the Guard. Right there this honor guard from one service passes the sentinel duty to a guard from another service in a simple, reverent ceremony. With his weapon over his shoulder, the guard from the previous hour transfers this solemn responsibility to the guard for the next hour. And if you happen to be close enough, you will hear the departing guard say three words to the incoming guard. In fact, the same three words that have been passed from one shift to another since this duty began decades ago. The words: "Orders remain unchanged." They always have. They always will.
I was on the plane, returning from ministry in Belfast, Northern Ireland when I heard the fascinating story. Danielle, the woman next to me, has deep roots in Northern Ireland. We got to talking about the Titanic, which was built in Belfast. That's when she told me about her great-grandfather. He was a professional seaman - and he had been assigned to sail on the Titanic. But at the last minute, his orders were changed - to sail instead on the Carpathia, the ship that was first on the scene of the Titanic's sinking - actually the ship that rescued the survivors from the icy waters of the Atlantic.
I've got this one black blazer that I really like to wear. Unfortunately, it has this one little problem. It's wool. Which means it's sort of magnetic - especially for lint and anything else that might jump up and attach itself to that jacket. I'm having to brush that blazer off all the time. It just picks up all this stuff!
My wife and I have the privilege of living in the farmstead that once belonged to her grandparents. But it's not just their home we get to enjoy. Every spring, some beautiful purple iris flowers bloom all over our front yard. I was touched when my wife told me she can remember when her Grandma planted those flowers - probably 50 years ago. Grandma's been in heaven for over 20 years - but what she planted is still beautifying our world.
First it was the D-Day Invasion. Then, it was Pearl Harbor. Hollywood's latest attempts to make blockbuster movies based on decisive historical events that are almost unknown to a younger generation. Now, thanks to the movie "Pearl Harbor" and countless books and TV specials about it, millions of people have either remembered or learned about the deadly events of December 7, 1941. The Japanese invasion of America's Pacific base at Pearl Harbor left thousands dead and wounded and the American fleet severely crippled. It was a surprise, an attack no one knew was coming. And that's why it was so damaging.
When my friend Floyd was a little boy, he was taken to church with his family more Sundays than he could ever count. But for some reason, one of those experiences stands out specially in his mind.. That Sunday, as every Sunday, the six members of the family were stuffed into the cab of the family truck for the trip to church. As they went into the church that day, my friend's father gave him a nickel and a penny to put in the offering - which he vividly remembers doing. He even remembers that he put it in a little brown envelope.
I've traveled outside the United States many times, but I've never had to wash my feet to get back into the country. Except for the last time. It wasn't exactly my feet that had to be washed, but the shoes on my feet-and all the shoes I had worn on my trip to the United Kingdom...because of concern over an epidemic of foot-and-mouth disease. So many British cattle and sheep had been destroyed because of that highly contagious disease - and while people can't catch it, they can carry it. So, as an important precaution, all of us travelers returning from that part of the world got to go through a separate line - where all our shoes were washed in a strong disinfectant. And none of us really minded. If we were contaminated, we sure didn't want to drag any disease back home with us.
Get a couple of veteran airplane travelers together, and before long you're bound to hear some "war stories." In fact, you're about to hear one now. Basically, it was one of those days at the airport. I was scheduled on a morning flight from the West Coast back to the New York area with a connection in a Midwest city. When I arrived at the airport, I learned my flight was being delayed for about four hours, thus killing my options for getting home for a while. Another flight on the same airline had been canceled, so there was a long line of us not-so-happy campers at this airline's ticket desk - for an hour and a half we were in line. The longer we had to wait, the more options were slipping away. Well, I quietly prayed and reminded Jesus and me that Jesus is Lord. The men behind me were becoming increasingly vocal about their unhappiness, so being the crazy man I am, I decided to try a little humor and lightheartedness. Pretty soon, we were laughing at our situation instead of overheating about it.
When we finally reached the front of the line, one man said, "Hey, I'm glad we had someone like you in this line." To which I said, "Hey, you can't pick your situation, but you can pick your attitude." Well, when the ticket agent finally figured out a way to get me home, he said, "I think you owe me." Instead of a flight where I had to change planes in another city, it was non-stop. Instead of arriving at 10:30 at night, it would arrive at 8:30. And as I was just about to board, the agent called me back and changed my seat assignment - to First Class, where I had a great meal, the room to get a lot of work done, and a divine bump-in with a flight attendant I knew from 18 years ago who really needed a pastor that night! Well, needless to say, I had no complaints with God's happy ending!
If you've ever checked your suitcase when you're about to take a trip by airplane, you know what they do with our luggage. No, not lose it. Not usually. The ticket agent determines what your final destination will be, he prints out an adhesive sticker with that destination on it, and he puts it around your suitcase handle. And then you settle back in your seat, knowing that bag will meet you at the other end of the trip. With the millions of bags the airlines handle daily, it's amazing that most go straight to the right destination. Now there are some exceptions. Like the one I checked in Idaho about two weeks ago. Oh, I checked it through to my final destination - Newark, New Jersey. It's still floating somewhere out there in the Baggage Twilight Zone. Well, like I said, most of the time they get it to your final destination.
It's the word you hope you'll never hear when you're in your doctor's office - cancer. But recently there's been a beautiful four-letter word that may go with that ugly word. It's the word "cure." The possible breakthroughs have to do with one of the greatest killers of women - breast cancer. But the discoveries may turn out to open up ways to cure other cancers, too. This entirely new approach to fighting cancer - one that has shown promising results in lengthening the lives of terminally ill cancer patients - has been described as "attacking cancer at its genetic roots." The gene is called HER2, and it produces this protein on the surface of cells that ultimately helps accelerate that abnormal growth that becomes cancer. Scientists have now developed a treatment that attacks this genetic malfunction that causes some cancers. One researcher offers hope to millions who have cancer or who may develop cancer when he says, "If we understand what is broken in the malignant cell, we may be able to fix it." They're calling this one of the hottest areas of cancer research. And it makes sense - stop the cancer by stopping its genetic root.