I was with two friends, returning from some Native American ministry in the Southwest. We had a rental car and a four hour drive to the airport in Phoenix. And we needed every minute to make our connections. Which made the lurch pretty annoying. Every time the driver would get the speed up to about 60, the car would start shuddering and lurching. Now with a 75 MPH speed limit, that was frustrating - and we weren't sure if we'd even make it with the shake, rattle, and roll mobile we had. Now everyone who knows me knows I'm no mechanic - but I did have a semi-technical idea. I said, "He did you check the emergency brake?" Answer, "No." I had driven that car the night before, and because I was parking for the night on an incline, I engaged the emergency brake. But neither our driver or I had thought about that brake the next morning. Well, from that point on we flew to Phoenix with no more lurching, but first we had to release what was holding us back!

The most boring part of any youth group outing is the long bus trip, especially if the trip is from Michigan to Arizona. Not long ago I interviewed some kids who went on this mission trip to the Navajo Reservation, but I don't think they will remember the trip as boring. Because of the carelessness of another driver, their bus had to swerve sharply at one point and the bus went off the road and started to roll all the way over into a ditch. Needless to say, it was very scary. One-by-one they emerged from the bus and thank God, no one was killed. Some were injured and had to be treated at a local hospital. Well, when they finally arrived at that Indian reservation they were a sorry looking bunch. They weren't able to bring all their luggage with them, some were on crutches, in braces, patched, bandaged. But when they found out at least one reason why the bus had rolled well, they have been thanking God for that accident ever since!

In my little world, "nuke" is just a word to describe what happens to my leftover when I put them into the microwave. But when I was doing a week of outreach on an Air Force base, nuke meant something far more lethal - as in nuclear missile. This particular base was home to scores of the missiles that have been part of the front lines of our nation's defense for years. They're kept in underground silos, surrounded by very high-tech security systems. It was my privilege to be taken on a visit of one of the launch control centers there, each one of these command centers is responsible for ten missiles. At the time I was there, the center was manned by two airmen who were on 24-hour shifts called "alerts." When they were on "alert," they went underground into a fully self-sustaining unit that contains both the launch systems and the systems that protect those missiles from intruders. They showed me the systems which monitor virtually every movement every minute for their ten missiles sites. In fact these protection systems are so finely tuned that a plastic bag blowing across the prairie can trigger it, or some rabbit who has no idea what is under his little feet. Frankly, I was encouraged that we have crews like this that are on full alert - what they're responsible for needs full alert!

Our dog Missy now has to share our attention with another pet, actually it's a canary who we named in honor of one of our Native American friends, we named the canary Cherokee. This little yellow cheerleader is great for when you're in a bad mood, because he never is. As soon as you uncover his cage in the morning, he starts warbling his repertoire of happy tunes. It may be a sunny day and you got happy singing all day long. It might be a miserable day guess what happy singing all day long. The people around our canary may be happy, or stressed, or noisy, or quiet, or down, it just doesn't matter. No matter what, he's singing!

When I check my suitcase at the airport - and then I see it disappear as the conveyor belt carries it beyond the curtain into the black hole called - the luggage-zone. I sometimes wonder how my bag is going to be handled. I don't know exactly what baggage handlers do, but I do know that Bertha - I've named my bag since we spend so much time together - she may get tossed, buried, squished. That's why I ask for a special sticker when I'm checking a bag that has something breakable in it - like my last trip, for example. There were a lot of plastic items in my bag that could have been shattered if the handlers got rowdy. So I simply asked for the protection of that bright red sticker with the picture of a fine drinking glass on it - the symbol of breakable. And I hope that somewhere in the luggage-zone that one seven-letter word will make a difference in how my things are handled - the word - fragile.

Tornadoes I know about - we had one go through our backyard when I was a kid. Then we moved to the East Coast - so I also got the opportunity to get acquainted with hurricanes. But there is one natural disaster I do not know much about - and that's just fine - earthquakes. What I know I have learned from people who have been through them - like Mike, for example, the man in the seat next to me on a long airplane flight recently. Until recently, he lived in Northridge, CA - remember, that was the epicenter of a major quake not long ago. He told me he and his family were lucky to be alive after that quake. And the day after he was out in his backyard, cleaning up some of the damage. Suddenly, he said, the ground started moving around him - and he literally saw the ground moving in waves toward him. Now it was an aftershock - and it was scary to see. And he summed up what he had learned from that earthquake in just a few words - "Things you're sure will always be there - may not be."

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.

My friend Billy knew where his parents hid the Christmas gifts. Well, he's an adult now but he still remembers the year he that he acted on knowing where the gifts were. His parents were gone and he sneaked downstairs. He went into the closet and nothing was wrapped yet, opened up the shopping bags and there they were. He folded up the bag and went back upstairs. His parents never knew. Now it was Christmas morning and you have to know that Billy had the reputation for being Mr. Christmas in his family. He never needed an alarm clock on Christmas morning. His parents told me all you have to do is have him get you up about 5 a.m. He's set to go off on Christmas morning. But this particular Christmas everybody was downstairs. They were beginning to open their presents and they suddenly realized, "Whoa, Whoa Billy is not here." Well Dad went and got him and he said, "It's Christmas son. Are you coming?" "Yeah," and he came shuffling downstairs, opened his presents, expressed his appreciation but somehow he was just not into it like everybody else was. His dad called him aside and he said, "Hey, Billy are you sick or something? You're like Mr. Christmas here." Billy said, "Dad, I really blew it." He said, "I opened my gift early and I ruined Christmas." A lot of people have ruined what could have been an unforgettable celebration.

The occasion was a city-wide art contest. They were told to paint paintings entitled "Peace." While the judges were understandably attracted to this beautiful pastural scene that a local painter had painted. It was a green pasture. It was the puffy white clouds and the beautiful blue sky and a little boy going by with a fishing pole over his shoulder and a quiet brook and some birds. That got second place. First place - well, the picture was of an angry, stormy day at the sea shore as the ocean was beating against the cliffs and the cliffs were stark and dark because of the darkness of the storm. The sky in this painting was angry and black, green and purple. You had to look twice to figure out what in world this had to do with peace. But if you looked halfway up the cliff these little baby birds were nestled underneath the wing of their mother, and they were sleeping totally oblivious to the storm that was howling all around them. Now it's the Christmas season. It's suppose to be about peace; but, if you feel the holiday pressure like I do, seems more like a storm, a stress which leads us into those birds.

Remember when the word, window, only referred to an opening in a wall covered with glass. Now the space program changed all that. A window is still an opening, but the folks at Cape Canaveral referred to that brief period of time where everything is right for the launch. The wind is okay. The weather is okay. They checked it at the Cape. They checked the down range. The atmospherics are okay for communication. The conditions have been projected for the time of return and they look good. But the window will pass soon. If you're going to get it off the ground, go when the window is open.

            

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Ron Hutchcraft Ministries
P.O. Box 400
Harrison, AR 72602-0400

(870) 741-3300
(877) 741-1200 (toll-free)
(870) 741-3400 (fax)

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