Just when you think little kids are pretty much all about their toys, TV, and what’s to eat, they amaze you again. Our daughter had one of those times when our grandson was puttering around the house in his jammies one early morning, and he wandered over to an East window. He stared out at the brightening early morning sky for a few moments and then he suddenly launched a question Mommy’s way, "Mommy, who painted the sky?" Before his mother could answer, our grandson answered his own question, "Jesus did."
For years, the stories of J. R. R. Tolkien's "Middle-Earth" were contained in his "Lord of the Rings" book trilogy and enjoyed by a relatively small number of people who loved those stories passionately. But since the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy exploded from books to blockbuster Hollywood movies, millions became enthusiastic fans. The engaging fantasy world of Tolkien's "Middle-Earth," the unique characters, the epic battles, and the spiritual themes that run through the stories; there are many layers that have blended into an experience that has magnetized millions of people. It's a great story, but for many, this is a story that seems to say something - something important. Tolkien, the author of the "Lord of the Rings," was a man with a deep Christian faith, and that faith helped to shape the provocative spiritual themes that many find in "Return of the King," the finale of the trilogy. There is this ring. There is this king. And there, somewhere tied to both, are many of us.
Sometimes when I'm speaking at a youth conference, I show up on the platform with a pie and a can of whipped cream. Sometimes it makes the front row a little nervous. But not to fear - it's only an illustration, not a weapon. I have my pie cut into six slices. I cover one of those slices with a generous serving of whipped cream. Then the big question to the audience, "How many slices are going to taste like whipped cream?" There's no trick question here. One slice will. Then I spray the whipped cream all over that pie and then there's whipped cream everywhere. And then I repeat the question. This is not hard. Every slice of the pie now will taste like whipped cream. Which, whether you realize it or not, could have a lot to do with how God feels about you as a Christian!
Fasten your seat belt, science fans. These days it seems as if there's a blockbuster discovery almost every day in the rapidly expanding world of science. But few things have amazed me more than some of the discoveries that came out of the mapping of human genes, human cells, and the stuff of human life that we call DNA. You've lived in your body so many years you probably don't think much about it. Well, think about it for a minute. Your body has, according to the research, ten trillion cells. Each of those ten trillion cells contains a strand of DNA that, if you uncoiled it, would be about six feet long. Now, here's what they're telling us. If you were to place each of those ten trillion strands in your body end to end - ready for your mind to be blown? Your DNA would span the solar system! Go take another look in the mirror.
The setting was a beautiful Christian conference center, nestled in this idyllic spot in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Now Rocky Mountain fans won't be impressed, but some of the mountains around the conference center rise to five or six thousand feet. I had been speaking there, and the director began to tell me some interesting stories from their last few months at the center; like the man they had to go looking for at the top of a nearby mountain in the middle of the night. See, he'd gone too far, and he'd stayed out too long. I asked the obvious question: "Well, was he lost?" The director said: "He didn't think he was."
He may have been the greatest American hero of his time; his name was Meriwether Lewis. When President Thomas Jefferson bought the massive Louisiana Purchase from Napoleon, the size of this young country was more than doubled overnight. The land stretched from the Mississippi all the way to the Pacific, and much of it was known well to Native Americans but largely unknown to white Americans. Jefferson tapped his personal aide and a distinguished war veteran to lead this incredible adventure that we know today as, that's right, the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Following the long and winding route of the Missouri River, Lewis led his expedition all the way from the point where it ends near St. Louis to its headwaters in Montana. His longtime dream had been to find the source of that river and to drink from it. He got his dream. If only it had satisfied his thirst.
It's really a beautiful area of the Southwestern United States, except for this one horrendous eyesore. It's a graveyard for cars. Acre after acre; you've seen them. They're covered with cars that have been discarded, or wrecked, or crushed, and stacked several cars deep. And every time I pass this one and I see all these trashed and mashed cars, I can't help but thinking to myself, "Just think, one day that car was somebody's dream come true." Someone probably wished for that car, got that car, and showed everybody this car they were so proud of. Look at it now!
This grandparent thing can be an expensive proposition. I mean, without grandchildren, you can walk past hundreds of cute toys and never miss a step. But when you have a grandchild, you keep seeing your grandchild's name on those toys. Which means you must buy toy with name on it. Right? Well, not all of them, but probably too many of them. We happened to be in a store with our little granddaughter when she was about one year old, and I happened to see this great stick horse that I thought would be entertaining for another grandchild. That would be our nearly three-year-old grandson at the time. When you squeeze the ear of the head of this horse, the William Tell Overture (otherwise known to us non-intellectuals as the "Lone Ranger Theme") starts playing, and the horse starts whinnying and snorting, and its nose starts twitching back and forth inside its halter. Well, I walked up to the grocery cart that our one-year-old granddaughter was riding in, and I turned it on for her to see. Her reaction was interesting. She reached in the direction of that twitching steed, wanting me to bring it closer. So I did. But as I brought it near her, she pulled as far back as she could, laying her head against her mother's shoulder. So much for my field test.
One of our team members is quite the woodsman and hiker. And one foggy Saturday morning, he volunteered to lead a group of men who wanted to go hike to this distinctive rock formation called Hawksbill Crag. He had the book on the trails in that area; a book written by the man considered the expert. My friend kept consulting the book as they went along, pretty confident that they would soon end up at Hawksbill Crag. They ended up lost in a poison ivy patch, and the fog wasn't helping much. As they tried to retrace their steps, they passed a house set back in the woods and they happened to see its owner outside. My friend called to him and asked him if he would help them get "un-lost." That man went above and beyond. He actually came to where they were, helped them make sense of the map that they had, and pointed them right to the trail that got them to their goal. Of course, it turns out he was the man who wrote the book.
When you have a commercial flight to catch at a major airport, it's important to pay attention. There are so many flights, so many gates, so many people, and there's only one plane you want to board; the one that's going to your destination. Right? Well, I guess folks must have made mistakes over the years. I mean, that's got to be the reason the boarding agent or the flight attendant gets on the plane and often says something like this: "This is a destination check. You're on Flight 88 to Atlanta. If Atlanta is not your destination today, this would be a good time for you to deplane." Yeah, I guess. In other words, this buggy ain't going where you want to end up!