I told a friend that if I were to die today, I'd have no complaints because I have lived what I think is like a whole lifetime a long time ago - maybe several of them. The Lord's been very, very good to me in terms of opportunities.
Okay, it's no secret. I am technically challenged. When it comes to computers, I know just the basics, you know, just enough to get by. Even I know enough to appreciate some things God provided for our ministry, like new computers that worked much faster than our old ones. We were able to upgrade some of our software. And the new software had capabilities that made a lot of things possible that weren't possible before. When it comes to the computers that make such a difference in our lives, a software upgrade can take you to a whole new level.
Up in Maine, where the roads run out, it's logging country. Now, the loggers will tell you that once you get a tree down, the next challenge is getting that big, old log where it's supposed to go to the mill. The answer? Well, you're not going to carry it there probably. So, you use natural power. They float those logs right down the river, until of course; well, sometimes too many logs decide to have a meeting in one place. You know what they call that. Right! We call it that in many parts of our life. They call it a log jam. Suddenly nothing's moving. The answer? Explosive power. Dynamite breaks that jam, gets things moving again. Of course, that's kind of how real life log jams are, too. It takes something explosive to get them going.
It's one of those classic "Peanuts" cartoons. Charlie Brown is sitting there, peacefully watching TV. Lucy comes up and tells him to change channels. Charlie Brown says, "What gives you the right to just order me to change channels?" Lucy holds up her hand with her fingers spread apart and answers, "These five little things: one, two, three, four, five. Alone they're not much" - and then as she pulls her fingers together in a fist - "but together, they are something terrible to behold." Then Lucy asks, "So what channel are you going to watch?" Poor ol' Charlie Brown looks down at his fingers and asks pitifully, "Why can't you guys get organized like that?"
Of course, I'm too young to remember World War II, right? But there was this restaurant back in New Jersey I could go to. It was a theme restaurant to get a little of the feel. Yeah, it actually was designed to create a feeling of WWII. It even had the tail of a plane sticking out of its roof! The walls were covered with WWII newspapers, posters, and buttons. There was this one poster that always stuck in my mind. There is this desperate GI in the ocean, just about to go under for the last time. And four words that don't mean a lot to us now but meant life-or-death for our troops back then, "Loose lips sink ships." Translation? When American GIs were in port, preparing to board a ship for their next mission, they were constantly reminded to talk to no one about where they were headed. Why? There were enemy spies in every port, trying to find out those destinations. If they did, the information was given to the enemy who used it to target that American ship for sinking. If a soldier talked too much, it could literally cost him his life and the lives of his comrades, because loose lips sink ships.
The youth broadcast I did for many years, we decided to take it out of the studio one day and use an amusement park as our backdrop for the program. The park people suggested a super rollercoaster called Thunder Road as one of the venues. Now, roller coaster and I have never gotten along real well since my dad sort of made me go on one when I was little. And this one - well, it had two lines for you to choose from. One said, "Forward," and the other said, "Backward." You could ride Thunder Road in the conventional way, looking forward with at least a little chance to prepare yourself for what was coming. But the backward bunch - they rode backwards! Which means, of course, they had no idea what was about to happen to their body. What? They call this a choice?
When our family got ready to leave for a trip, I usually had some pretty good help loading the car, because everybody was eager to leave. Now, when we pulled into the driveway at the end of the trip, it was a little different. All of a sudden I noticed I was carrying a lot of things and I didn't have much company. Five members in our family, but invariably when it was time to unload, I ran in the house and found... let's see, there's one on the phone, one in the bathroom, one opening the mail, one in their room, and one carrying the load. That was me. I'd be in the kitchen yelling, "Help!" as I staggered in with things hanging from both shoulders - doing my impersonation of a mule, things in my arms, my hands, my mouth, my teeth. Listen, it is frustrating to have a load to carry and nobody is there to help.
One of the first books I remember hearing my parents read to me, and actually one of the first books my kids remember us reading to them, is that famous little classic, "The Little Engine That Could." You probably remember the story of that load of toys that no train was able to pull up the mountain to get those poor little children their toys on the other side. Well, no train that is, until this unlikely little engine volunteered to give it a try. And against all odds, he made it, puffing out those four inspiring words - listen, if you remember them, say them with me now: "I think I can! I think I can!" (Yeah, you got it!) And he inspired us to believe that we could do anything if we had that same confidence. Unfortunately, I have a scandalous secret to tell you. The little engine lied to us!
One Christmas our youngest grandson was visiting at our son's house, and he was fascinated with the extensive Christmas lights that his uncle had strung around the outside of his house. I should tell you that one of our grandson's first words was "light," and lights were one of the first thing he would point out in any room. He was almost obsessed with them! As night fell and our son's Christmas lights came on, our grandson surprisingly wasn't very happy. We thought he'd be amazed by all those lights, but instead he just kept pointing out this one short stretch of lights that wasn't working and repeating, "Lights off. Lights off." Forget the hundreds of lights that were on!
In a few places in the world, there is a man who literally embodies a nation. For the Middle Eastern kingdom of Jordan, for many years King Hussein was that kind of man. His stature on the international scene could be measured by a lot of influence he had on the Middle East peace talks and even by the unprecedented coming together of friends and enemies at his funeral. But those who loved him most, of course, were his own countrymen. He was gone from Jordan for many of what turned out to be the last months of his life - gone for treatment of a deadly cancer. Just weeks before his final trip for treatment before the cancer claimed his life, King Hussein returned to his beloved country - flying his own airplane. It was a dramatic return for a king who had been gone so long, and the welcome he received was pretty amazing. As a display of affection and loyalty, people slaughtered sheep and goats right on the street as his motorcade passed by. One man even sacrificed a camel that was valued then at $10,000. They literally poured out their love for their returning king.