In the course of working with our “On Eagles’ Wings” outreach teams, I have done a lot of driving across the Indian reservations of America. And some of them, like the Navajo Reservation, for example, have long stretches where you see only a handful of people or houses. If I follow my usual custom of waiting to get gas until I’m running low, I’m in big trouble. One night several years ago I was driving a borrowed station wagon which had a fuel gauge that was stuck on ¾ of a tank – except I didn’t know that. We struck out across the Navajo Reservation and ended up out of gas literally in the middle of nowhere. People who drive the reservation know there is a basic survival rule – take time to fill up with gas before you start your trip!
It took place in the 1960s - when a lot of strange things took place. It was an experiment where some scientists placed some dogs in a cage, the floor of which was wired to generate an electric current. The scientists locked these dogs in the cage and then they activated the current. It was strong enough to shock the animals, but not to injure them. Needless to say, every time the electricity went through that cage floor, the dogs jumped around and yelped in pain - for a while. It wasn't too long before they got used to the shock, and their only reaction was just a slight twitch. At that point, the scientists opened the door of the cage. But when they turned on the voltage, the dogs just took the shock again - not one of them got out, even though the door was wide open. Now, they had been hurt so many times, they were just conditioned to it. The final step in the experiment was to send a dog into the cage who had not been conditioned to that voltage. As soon as the current went through the cage, that new dog yelped and made a mad dash out the door of the cage - followed by all the other dogs.
Every year as the President of the United States delivers his State of the Union Address, he introduces some everyday heroes in the balcony who embodies a point he's making. Actually, that custom began the night President Reagan introduced a man named Lenny Skutnik. To this day, reporters ask Presidential aides, "Who are the 'Skutniks' this year?'" Lenny Skutnik was one of thousands of Federal workers in Washington, D.C. - until the day Air Florida's Flight 90 crashed into the Potomac River.
As a kid, I often rode my bike up to the old theater on 79th Street for the Saturday afternoon flick. But this day was different. They handed me this strange-looking pair of glasses, made of cardboard with tinted plastic lenses. Those goofy-looking glasses opened up a whole new world where the events in a movie no longer just stayed flat on the screen - they leaped off the screen and right into your face - in 3-D!
I got a wonderful letter the other day from Mike, who was a teenager in one of my Campus Life Clubs a looong time ago. He was reflecting on those high school years and his summer job as a lifeguard. Let me just quote from his letter: "Lotsa city folk who couldn't swim came out to our beach, and we went in many, many times for them. I was paranoid that I would lose someone on my watch and we never did." Then he went on to describe another nearby beach as a place "where suburban-trained swimmers go. They did lose a child when no one else was looking."
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."
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.
It's a battle every mother has fought in every generation. It's that three-word charge that can mean the difference between getting sick or being well - "wash your hands." Of course, it would be okay with most kids if washing their hands was a monthly thing, or at most, you know, like once a week. Our kids did it , I suppose you know at least one other who has done it. See, they come in from doing who knows what with those hands and say, "They're not dirty." Now there may not be any brown slime dripping from those little hands, but you can be sure they're carrying plenty of nasty little critters. And it's amazing what happens when you get some soap and water on those hands - the sink is suddenly covered with some pretty yucky-looking stuff coming off those hands. Surprise, kid - you couldn't see it, but your hands were dirty, man. You just didn't realize how dirty!
Millions of Americans visit the emergency room once a week - on television, that is. The blockbuster TV hit, "E.R.," very convincingly takes its viewers into the tension and crisis environment of a hospital emergency room. They make you feel like you're there. Of course, they're not the only medical personnel involved in crisis care situation. I was reminded of that the other day on the interstate as this ambulance passed us. Of course, the back has those big red letters - "ambulance." But this particular ambulance had sort of a subtitle - one that raised my eyebrows and made me smile. The whole sign on the back said, "Ambulance - the real emergency room."
It's a huge job to try to keep the roadside by interstates and major highways from looking like garbage dumps. But somebody had this great idea: have clubs, and churches, and schools, and civic organizations volunteer to maintain just one mile of the road near them. You've probably seen the signs - "This mile maintained by the Forest Grove Garden Club," or a Boy Scout troop, or by the Busy Hands Presbybaptist Church, or even a family. Now no one of those groups could ever maintain say the entire roadside in their county - but they can do a mile. And if each group makes sure their mile is covered, the whole area will end up looking a whole lot better.