Now, if you like putting puzzles together, oh you'd love trying to piece together your family genealogy. My wife and I spent quite a bit of time and energy on that. As you start climbing your family tree, you find all kinds of holes in your information, dates and places that sometimes seem contradictory, illogical.
Okay so I'm a newspaper guy, sort of a news junkie. Yeah I get it on TV, I read it on the internet but I like to read my newspapers too. It's kind of one of life's simple pleasures. But I've found out that a newspaper isn't finished though when you finish reading it. Oh, no, no! It's more than informative, it's useful! What's in the news is useful for wrapping fragile items, or storing them or shipping them. We did that just the other day. It's useful for killing flies sometimes when I can't find the swatter. A newspaper is useful for lining pet cages and building a fire. What's in the news or in the newspaper is useful for saving lives.
For some reason, this drunk driver decided that he liked my side of the road better than his. He suddenly crossed the center line and plowed headlong into our car. I had the whole family with me, and our car was totaled those years ago. But thankfully, none of us was totaled. Our injuries were miraculously minor actually, in light of what happened to our car. Now, a friend offered to drive me to the youth retreat where I was speaking that weekend. Well, that night of the accident, the doctor put me in a neck brace for a few days, so I got a lot of sympathy at that retreat! I almost decided to wear it permanently! But I did have a little whiplash, actually, from the force of the hit that we took. That's the damage to your neck when you get whipped around violently and suddenly.
Well every once in a while, that remote in my hand will take me to an educational place on television. I remember one night that I saw something with a very curious title. It was about "good things hurricanes do." Yeah. Now, we've seen plenty of the bad things hurricanes do, I was intrigued to hear about the good ones. This feature told about these Australian pine trees that somehow had taken root in a place in Florida. It hosted attractive plants which attracted a lot of beautiful birds and small animals. And the pines grew and got tall (which is something I don't know much about personally!), but they created this canopy over the plants they got so tall, and that blocked out the sun. And what had been this thriving gorgeous plant and animal life area became a stretch of sterile underbrush...until the hurricane hit. The storm literally snapped those trees in two. And the sun is back. The area is now a beautiful park with pools, greenery, flowers, herons, and lots of interesting wildlife. But it took a hurricane.
There are two words that send a shudder through almost everyone who is either in school or was ever in school, because you remember the fear that goes with these words. And if you're currently a student, you don't have to remember them at all; you're living with them. The words - final exam!
We were driving across the state of Kansas, and I was reminded again of what a panoramic view you have there no matter which way you look. Those plains just seem to stretch as far as the eye can see, and your eye can see just about everything - not many hills or mountains to hide in. If you know that terrain, you can understand how quickly an unobstructed wind can carry a fire across that prairie, destroying everything in its path. A Kansas farmer told us that at the first sight of smoke, every farmer and rancher who can see it leaps into action; some in pickup trucks that are loaded with tanks of water, others with tractors and farm equipment. They're all determined to stop that fire before it really gets started.
You might say parenting is not a precise science. You don't just mix certain ingredients and get a certain reaction. In fact, it's largely (I hate to say it) experimental. But after a while you learn more creative ways to do what is right. You can yell, you can overpower, you can threaten them until they're bigger than you are. Or you can work through the method I came to call 'The Squeeze'. It's a method that steers a child to the right choice. It's also known as "The Lousy Choice" approach.
I used to work with someone on our team who was a fanatical fisherman! He actually told me about a boy who was starting very young down that same road, or stream as the case may be. At that point, James was only three years old, but his dad had already taught him to fish! The first time they went fishing together Dad gave him a cricket to use as bait. Well, beginner's luck - James caught himself a little sunfish with that cricket. And then, just for fun, Dad decided to let his boy try some serious bait - what fishermen call stink bait. It's got something like pieces of liver in it. Wouldn't you know it! Little James reeled in a seven pound catfish! When Dad tried to get him to go back to the cricket bait - no way, Dad! He had discovered what kind of bait attracts the big ones!
In our town, Dr. Jennings was one of the most feared teachers in the school system. She taught music, and she began a new year in elementary school one year with a tirade that dumped all over one poor little boy who happened to raise his hand and say, "Mrs. Jennings..." At which she totally exploded and said, "Dr. Jennings, and don't you forget it!" And I want to tell you, that was only the beginning of what she said. You'd better call her Doctor. You get the distinct impression she really needs that title for her identity. But then, have you ever watched high school football players? I've worked with them a lot, and it's kind of fun to watch them, because in a sense, they're seldom seen in public without their letter jacket. You've got to have your jacket to kind of have your identity. Right? Who am I without my letter jacket?
It was one of those rare mornings off for our Native American outreach team and someone had arranged for us to take a brief raft trip down the beautiful Snake River in Wyoming. Our guide pointed out these incredible sights along the way including a stand of tall Aspen trees along the bank. He told us that Aspens actually have a single root system. In other words, that stand of trees all came from the same root, just branching out a lot of different directions. That's amazing! And then our guide who I hope wasn't just putting on some dumb tourists said that the largest living thing in the world is in Colorado, a giant stand of Aspen trees. All the product of a single root. Many, many trees, one root. . .