It's pretty funny the lengths some advertisers will go to convince you that you should buy their product, like those Samsonite commercials. Remember, the suitcase in the gorilla cage, taking every form of abuse a gorilla could give it? And then there was the one where they threw it out of a plane and it survived. But the pioneers of this kind of "hammer it to prove it" advertising were the makers of Timex watches. Their motto was hard to forget - "Takes a lickin', keeps on tickin'." I don't remember all the ways they beat up on their watches, but it seems to me they attached one to a ski boat, one to the underside of a truck that was bouncing along a bumpy road. They gave it all kinds of hammering that proved the quality of their product.
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!
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."
Well, some of us had to wait almost 20 years for it - but the 1996 New York Yankees finally won the World Series. Now they had to be the champs to do it - the Atlanta Braves. And after the first two games of the best-of-seven series, I thought the Yankees had gone into a coma - they got creamed. Ah, but that's when it got exciting - they came back to win next two games. The series was tied at two games apiece, of course - and the then Yankees appeared to doze off again in Game Five - they were behind 6-0! Speaking of dozing off, that's what at least one Yankee fan did - including the guy I heard buying a newspaper the next day. He saw the headline announcing that the Yankees had come back and won that game 8-6! He grabbed that newspaper, saw the outcome of the game, and then said some things I can't quote - after which he said, "I can't believe it! I gave up on them in the seventh inning and went to sleep!" He missed a great victory.
There's a lot of talk against smoking these days. Apparently our van hasn't got the message. On this recent trip our 1982 van decided to take up heavy smoking. We had just arrived in this town where we would be staying and suddenly our teenaged van started belching out serious smoke! Some Christian friends directed us to a Christian mechanic we could trust and he gave some exciting news that our engine had blown and we needed to replace it. Well, after investigating all our options we decided that those dollars would do more repairing our vehicle than replacing it except we didn't have any dollars to put towards it. That breakdown launched a series of miracles that we never could have anticipated when things seemed to be falling apart. The believers in that town found out about what had happened somehow. They supplied us a loaner car and in an act of love that blew us away they put together all the money needed for a new engine. Our incredible Lord loved us and helped us through His wonderful kids. When God steps in, the result is above and beyond all that we could ask or imagine. The mechanic actually found an engine that was considerably more powerful than the one we had lost! I was driving with it yesterday - you should see me go!
It was a beautiful day for sailing, and our friend Dave had invited us to go out on Long Island Sound with him and his wife. It was not hard to decide whether to go. The Sound was relatively calm that day - there was a very gentle breeze and not a cloud in the sky - but suddenly Dave announced to us, "We're heading in." I couldn't think of a single, rational reason to waste the rest of such an idyllic afternoon. I said, "Why Dave?" He said, "To beat the storm." Right? I checked the sky again, and there were still no clouds. Well, we headed for the harbor and pretty soon Dave was lowering his sails and we went the rest of the way propelled by his motor, and sure enough it started sprinkling as we entered the harbor! As we tied the last canvas around the folded sails, the skies opened up and dumped! Now, I was impressed - and dry, thanks to Dave hearing some static on the radio, knowing where that station transmitted from and sensing that rain was on the way. He saw no clouds, but he expected the rain.
You can't just study all the time when you're in college, you need a little diversion, right? For me it was that little social action group I put together called The Vigilantes. Now, our social action consisted of very strategic maneuvers - otherwise known as practical jokes. One of them turned out to be very impractical, actually. One well known senior had just gotten engaged and we felt he was especially deserving a special engagement, ahh, commemoration, shall we say. He was the advisor in the dorm of about forty freshman and we were seniors, hey, no problem getting in, putting our friend through a few engagement rituals, and leaving, right? That's what we thought. There were eight of us in our little war party and no sooner had we all gotten in the door of the dorm than we were attacked by 40 out-of-control freshmen. Someone had leaked our raid and our friend had all the freshmen ready to cream us! It wasn't very pretty. We slithered back to our dorms, sulked, humiliated, by freshmen no less! But I couldn't leave it there, of course, I went door to door in our dorm recruiting a small army in the name of "upper class honor." Pretty soon we had about 60 rowdy guys packed into a dorm lounge preparing for a return raid, those freshmen saw us coming in, it was the same eight guys, and they started coming at us, but the upper class men just kept coming. The freshmen learned their humility lesson that night, and our friend finally had his engagement appropriately celebrated. Oh, we had suffered a serious setback, but we responded aggressively!
The Seattle Mariners were in the middle of a baseball game when it hit, an earthquake. The sportscaster in Seattle King Dome said, "Man, everything is shaking here." Well, the newscast showed the reaction of Seattle star Ken Griffey, Jr.. Even though he is one of baseballs premier players, he suddenly did not have baseball on his mind. He ran over to a spot on the field where he could see his family in the stands - it wasn't baseball he was thinking of all of a sudden. He was motioning to his family to get out of that stadium, now!, and to start driving home. It reminded me of that night when an earthquake hit that third game of the 1989 World Series in San Francisco, and the remark the San Francisco catcher made. Even in the midst of a World Series dream coming true, speaking of the quake he simply said, "Sure does change your priorities, doesn't it?"
Every New York station that you turned to had the same bold graphic, Blizzard of '96. It was barely '96; we were only six days in when anywhere between 20-30 inches of snow unloaded on our Metropolitan New York area. It was like a mega-ton snow bomb hit New York City, and it literally drove the Big Apple to its knees. This is a city that doesn't shut down for anything except this monster storm. The schools were closed for an almost unprecedented two days. City workers were told not to come in and bridges to the city were closed. Some of the busiest streets in the world were bare except for an occasional plow or emergency vehicle that went by. The trains couldn't make it because of snow choked tracks. Major sporting events were impossible. I've never seen New York like that. The city that never stops had been stopped.
I've seen gridlock before in New York City. It's when vehicles are choking at every intersection and literally no one can move. Until recently though, I had never seen gridlock in a grocery store. The weatherman had forecast a hugh snowstorm for our area which was supposed to begin during the night. Well I stopped by the store about 9:30 that night, and I ended up trying to find the end of the line for the cash register. They only had two lanes open and there was a line of carts all the way to the produce section all jammed together so no one could come in, go out, or go through. What brought this sudden urge to shop? Word of an approaching storm.