Hunting season has always been big for my friend Stan. He was a pretty young man the day he and his cousin went on one of this more memorable trips. Because of the rattlesnake. They were deep in the woods turkey hunting when they heard that telltale rattle right behind them. Stan turned, fired his gun and - I don't mean to be crude - but he actually shot the head off that rattlesnake. And then the rites of manhood thing started. Yeah - Stan says to his cousin, "Pick it up." "No I don't want to pick it up, it's a rattlesnake." "Are you chicken? It can't hurt you anymore." So his cousin picked it up - suddenly he heard that rattle again - and he screamed and threw that snake in the air. Of course, the rattle was just a reflex - obviously that rattlesnake couldn't do any damage. Stan laughed, and his cousin said, "You pick it up, Stan." Finally, Stan started to pick it up and of course the rattle started clicking again. At which point, Stan did exactly what his cousin had done - screamed and threw the snake in the air. Well, they did eventually get that snake home - but the scene was repeated all the way home. Stan and his cousin would take turns carrying the snake - and hearing the rattle - screaming - and throwing it into the air. Even though the rattler couldn't possible bite them.
Oklahoma City. We will never be able to hear those words again without thinking of the carnage of April 19, 1995 - the day a terrorist bomb destroyed the Federal Building and 168 people who were in it. That day in Oklahoma City displayed the very worst in people - and the very best. That awful moment, pulled that community together in a way that it may never have been united before. I mean, all kinds of people threw themselves into the rescue effort - doctors, and nurses, and police, and firefighters, and everyday heroes, counselors, ministers, food suppliers. And someone wisely pointed out that suddenly white didn't matter, black didn't matter, Methodists didn't matter, Baptists didn't matter, old, young. There was one compelling need that had incredible power to erase all the categories.
Okay, this is a word association test! Fruit salad. What did you think of? Well, it depends whether or not you've been in the military. You see, if you haven't been in the military, you probably thought of some little pieces of apple, or melon, in a bowl together - but if you've been in the military you may have found something far less edible than that. We just called a Desert Storm veteran and I did that with him. I said, "What do you think of when I say "fruit salad"? He said, "Oh, ribbons and medals." That's right! To the military it's all those medals - that kind of "fruit salad" matters a lot to people in the military. They are the record that all the world can see in your achievements, in your service to your country. When one of America's top military leaders committed suicide, it was believed that a controversy over his medals may have contributed to that tragedy. He was wearing a medal that was only supposed to be worn by those who have been in direct combat contact. His wartime service on a ship didn't qualify according to his critics. When you've served your country, your service awards are serious business. There are some soon-to-be-issued awards that will go to some very surprising, and surprised people.
Not all the drama of the Olympics takes place during the Olympics. Some of it unfolds in the weeks and months leading up to the games, like the torch, for example.
In the spirit of the ancient Olympics in Greece, the Olympic torch is carried by runners over thousands of miles until it's finally carried into the opening ceremonies to light the official torch of the Olympic Games. In the case of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, a journey of 15,280 miles, from Los Angeles to Atlanta, represents quite a torch run. Obviously one person doesn't do it all, I mean, not even I am in that good a shape! Now, every Olympic year there are many runners who each carry the torch for a fraction of the journey and then they hand it off to the next runner. In the case of the Atlanta Games, Coca Cola selected 2,500 of the 10,000 torch bearers that were needed. They accepted nominations from anyone that you might know who you thought was "worthy to carry the torch."
Okay, I thought we'd start off with a little magic trick today. I need a little of your imagination. Now, sitting on this table in front of me is this cellophane, okay? Right, okay. Now, next to it is this glove, all right, now here's the trick - my glove is going to pick up the cellophane. I'm lying right down next to the cellophane, okay, "Glove, pick up the cellophane!" Ah, "Glove! Pick up the cellophane!" Ah, nothing is happening. Now it doesn't matter what we do, no matter if we baptize this glove, if we get it confirmed, dedicated, rededicate this glove, it's never going to pick up the cellophane! Oh, but watch this, here we go, oh, actually, listen to this - now the glove is moving and it is moving toward the cellophane. Listen! (Sound of cellophane moving) Ah, you've just got to trust me, it is literally the glove picking up the cellophane. Are you amazed or what? Well, there is one little factor that I forgot to mention - I put my hand in the glove before I picked up the cellophane. It's amazing! All of a sudden that glove could do what, otherwise, gloves could never do!
Now, driving in Mexico is really an adventure. Actually, riding with someone who's driving is an adventure!
I was with our director of Latin American outreach a couple of weeks ago and he was very skillfully and amazingly navigating the challenges of the traffic in his city. It didn't really bother me much, I just took a sedative - no not really - but David's little boy Isaac was in the back seat and at one point our back seat helper reminded Daddy that he was supposed to be getting in the lane for an upcoming tunnel! It took a little doing, but David managed to get over there somehow, at which point Isaac had a word for his father. This little voice said from the back seat, "Good job Daddy!" Well, actually Isaac says that pretty often, he likes what his father does, and he tells him.
Our ministry team was together for a night of fellowship not too long ago and somehow we got to sharing memories about our childhood. Now Gayle, my Administrative Assistant, rewound the tape of her life all the way back to her first day of kindergarten. She survived the school part alright, it was that bus trip home that was the problem. She sat in the back and all the other kids got out at their stops and as the bus driver unknowingly drove right past her stop - in fact her stop was near the beginning of the road! But Gayle said she was so painfully shy then, she just didn't speak up. So finally there was just one little girl left on the bus and the driver looked in the rearview mirror and said, "Ah, little girl - where's your stop?" Well, it's a good thing he asked, she might still be on that bus! This is a time to speak up, not to be silent!
I was in mid-shave one morning recently, all lathered up, attacking my whiskers with my razor and I heard a little "bang" down the street, and suddenly the power went out. Now fortunately I was still able to find my face in the dark - it was approximately where it usually is. But I knew the rest of the morning was going to be very interesting. You see, it wasn't just a circuit breaker, oh no, no, the power was out on the whole block. No toasted bagel today! No hair dryer, no lamp to read my Bible by - why? That grey cylinder that hangs on that telephone pole down the street - we had no power because the transformer had blown!
Now there are some American cities that I just really love, and San Diego, California, has to be one of them. Not too long ago I was there for three days - I look forward to that man. I just love to get around San Diego - well I didn't, like an awful lot of meetings I go to. Of course I never got out of the hotel. I could have been anywhere! They put me in a nice room, and I was hardly ever in the room! Now, it was a great time of ministry, and that's actually what I went for so that was fine. But, I would race into my room between meetings and there was bearly time to use the facilities and change clothes and race on out. But no matter how much of a hurry I was in there was one thing I always checked on - the message light. Some phones in some hotel rooms have this little red message light and when they have a message for you at the desk - someone's called you, or sent a fax, or something - that light's on. That means you've got a message - and it's usually information I need. So no matter how fast I'm running, I always look for the message light.
It used to be that two armies would line up, then they would plunge into combat, and the best army would win. It was simpler then. Today it isn't necessarily the fellas with the best army who win, it's the one with the best air-force. It happened in World War II, it happened in certain Vietnam engagements, and it happened dramatically in the Persian Gulf War, remember? I mean, the air-force went in, they immobilized Iraq's capacity to respond, and then they kind of softened up the opposing forces, and there was an air war before anybody moved on the ground. And then once the troops started to move, the planes provided that vital air cover for their operations. Saddam Hussein had a big army, but he lost because his air cover just didn't function.