I felt like the Big Bad Wolf in that story of Little Red Riding Hood; the part where he's masquerading as grandma. Little Red says, "What big eyes you have!" That was me the day I left the ophthalmologists' office. He had put dilating solution in my eyes for an eye checkup. Well, the checkup was over, but somebody forgot to tell my eyes. They stayed dilated for the next couple of hours. And everyone said, "What big eyes you have!" It wasn't much fun. Even though it was basically a cloudy day, I was squinting and I was trying to cover my eyes. With my pupils so big and so wide open, the light was blazing right into my eyes. I wasn't missing anything and it was blinding!
It was some years ago when we heard unsettling words on the evening news, "airline pilots strike." Man, I hate words like that! The threat of my particular airline and its pilots going on strike? Well, it threw everyone affected by it into a tailspin. (I guess that's a bad example.) Panicky travelers were scrambling to double book their reservations on another airline just in case. Resort areas serviced by this airline began to add up the zillions this might cost them. The White House started adding up the devastating financial cost on the economy-so much so that the President actually stepped in to at least delay the strike. The simple fact is, planes aren't going anywhere without pilots. If they don't show up for their job, it just gets real crazy real fast.
When our friends heard that our family had been invited to Alaska for a week of ministry, they were all excited for us. They said, "Oh, it's beautiful, you're going to love it! When are you going?" "February." "Oh." See, I get invited to places like Florida and Arizona in the summer, and Alaska in the dead of winter. We had a wonderful week, but the time came for my wife and kids to fly home because they had to get back to school, and I stayed for several more days of ministry. We were out on the Kenai Peninsula, in an area that felt fairly remote. We arrived at this small airport one night to rendezvous with our pilot. Dick was a missionary pilot, trained by Moody Bible Institute's top-flight pilot's school and he was experienced in flying into many remote areas of Alaska. But that night his cargo was the people I love most. My first cause for a little worry was his request to help him push the plane out of the hangar and onto the runway. That was new! Yeah, and it was icy. I had never pushed my plane into position before. I didn't like that runway. It was covered with thick, deeply-rutted ice from one end to the other. And at the end of this fairly short runway was a big stand of trees you could run into. Oh yeah, and it was heavily overcast-no moon, no stars. Well, I helped my wife and three children crowd into Dick's little Cessna, I waved good-bye as they started bouncing and maneuvering down that icy runway. I really didn't like the conditions, but I was okay because I really trusted the pilot.
Years ago we were just beginning the process of building our Ministry Headquarters. At that point, all that was on this field was the footings for the building and a barn that was on the property. Volunteers were in the process of renovating and weatherproofing that old barn for storage when some friends donated a truckload of office furniture to our ministry. It was going to be a few days before we could bring that furniture into the barn, so we had to leave it next to the barn, which meant it had to be covered to protect it, right?
Our Native American outreach team traveled across Alaska one summer to villages that were a long way from the nearest road. So, we spent a lot of time on small missionary airplanes. Missionary pilots, man, they are some of the best pilots in the world - my heroes. They have to be. I mean, every travel morning, they're on the phone, carefully checking the weather conditions. And if the weather wasn't safe, we didn't fly until it was no matter how urgent our schedule. And that's a good thing. Our pilot explained to me a condition that has cost many a pilot his life – it's referred to as get-thereitis. You know, it's cutting corners, rushing into your flight because you're obsessed with getting there. Then he told me a pilot's saying that I had to think about for a minute. He said, "Many a pilot has been buried on a sunny day." Translation: if only he had waited just a little longer.
Hey, if you're looking for a great real estate deal, don't go looking in the metropolitan New York area. Yeah, housing in the metro New York area is just really expensive. When people from another part of the country start looking at home prices there, they usually get a paralyzing case of sticker shock. When our friend Rachel and her husband moved to the New York area to serve the Lord, they went through that cost-of-living trauma. Rachel was talking one day to my wife about this and it led her to tell about a minor, but particularly irritating, frustration she had with their house. It was about that pipe in the corner of the dining room. Rachel said, "I have wallpapered the room. I have tried everything to get that dumb pipe to blend in, but nothing works! It's ugly!" Then she paused for a moment and she said, "You know, I told God I'd live in a grass hut in Africa if He called me to, and I meant it! Why can't I live in a house with an ugly pipe in New Jersey?" Then Rachel answered her own question. "I know why." The diagnosis that followed might provide an x-ray of what's going on in you.
If you want to get into Manhattan from New Jersey, you have several choices. You can take a long bridge, one of two long tunnels, a ferry trip, or a long un-recommended swim. The Hudson River is really pretty wide when it reaches Manhattan, but it's not very powerful. If you could see the Hudson River near its headwaters in upstate New York, man, it's roaring along with a really strong current. Upstate its banks are confined and the force is greater. By the time it reaches Manhattan, it's not so powerful. The Hudson's so spread out that its power seems kind of weak by comparison. I know people like that.
Some friends are involved in a ministry whose offices are out in the country. The setting is beautiful and far enough out that it even has some interesting four-legged neighbors. Like the mountain lion that several workers and neighbors say they've spotted. There's not supposed to be a mountain lion in their area, but someone forgot to tell the mountain lion. (He didn't get the memo.) I understand this has caused the folks who work there – especially if they're there after dark – just a little more vigilance when they're coming or going from their car. Personally, I think it's better for the person to see the lion before the lion sees the person. Right?
Oh, it was a happy day for our then one-year-old granddaughter! It was a milestone day. I mean, ever since she started riding in the car with her parents, she had been in the back seat in her infant seat, facing backward – just like the safety folks recommend you should do. Her Mom and Dad travel a lot of miles, and so even as a little girl, she saw a lot of country as it was going by. But not then! No, not anymore! Not after she got twenty pounds. Yeah, she weighed twenty pounds, the magic threshold. When you get to twenty pounds, you reach that great milestone. Mom and Dad turn your seat around and you get to see where you're going instead of where you've been.
And now once again it's time for another of my science guy experiments. Let's say I'm looking at this beautiful scene on a calendar. It's a picture of snow-capped mountains in the background with stately evergreen trees in the foreground and a azure-blue sky. In the upper left-hand corner, an eagle is soaring majestically over the trees. I love eagles, so I decide that's the thing in the picture that most catches my attention. In fact, forget the rest of the picture, I'll just take a closer look at the eagle. So I bring him closer to my eyes and closer and now my nose is touching the calendar. I am totally focused on the eagle and I am suddenly cross-eyed!