Our daughter and son-in-law inherited our big red van. Let me describe it to you. There were two seats in the front, there's a bench seat in the back, and in-between nothing but open floor - carpeted open floor. It was always challenging to talk in there. In fact, it was almost impossible when the windows were open.
The image of a burning candle on an iPad. That's actually the way that many people paid tribute and honored Steve Jobs' death and life. How appropriate. I mean, he was that inventive genius; the innovative marketer who brought the communications revolution from the "geekosphere" to something you could actually hold in your hand.
Some of the ugliest scenes from the 20th Century, of course, come from the Nazi Holocaust during World War II. And some pretty inspiring scenes, actually, come from it as well. One of the most famous accounts of those awful years was written by a Jewish psychiatrist named Victor Frankl - a survivor of the concentration camps. Frankl told of how the Jews there had almost every freedom stripped from them: they were imprisoned, they were awakened any hour of the day or night, they were treated like slave labor, humiliated, always facing the specter of death. But he lived to tell us about the one freedom they learned no one could take away from them - the freedom he saw in many of those who survived the horror. And it's the one freedom that could make you a survivor.
I'd rather not have to use one of those carts to carry my groceries out to the parking lot. If you take it out there, you should be nice and return it to where it goes. Right? No, I'd rather use the mule approach, carrying every possible bag I can in my arms, my hands, hanging from my shoulders. So here I am, moving precariously toward the door of the store, with every appendage committed. Problem: how am I going to open that door that goes to the parking lot? If I start walking toward it, it remains closed, threatening my bodily welfare and my new treasures when I walk into the door. But if I just stand there, it won't open either. Well, thankfully, you know. Stores have automatic doors. The door remains closed, though, if I stand still, and it remains closed if I only walk part of the way toward it. But as I walk steadily toward it until I'm close to it - voila! - the door opens just before I need to go through it! What a world!
If you don't like to wash your hands, don't ever become a doctor or a nurse. You have to wash your hands a lot! Scrubbing up is a routine procedure for people in the medical profession. I don't think any of us wants to be opened up by some doc who hasn't washed his hands all day! Right? Actually, a loved one of ours had a major heart surgery a few years ago, which she made it through. What she didn't make it through was the staph infection that she picked up in the hospital. It's avoiding that kind of thing that's at the heart of a hospital's insistence that healers and caregivers get really clean before they touch you. If they carry infection, they can do a lot of damage.
Whenever we passed a park, when I was a kid, I shifted into nagging mode to get my dad to stop, because I loved the swings. Didn't do that spinning carousel thing. No, never did enjoy throwing up. Then, the seesaw. That was fun. Yeah.
It was one of those great night-night conversations that a father can have when he's with his son or daughter at bedtime. Our son-in-law tried to prepare our four-year-old grandson for sleeping by saying, "You know you don't have to worry at night because Jesus is with you." Our grandson, ever the thinker, said, "How do I know that Jesus can see me?" Dad told him, "Well, Jesus is up in heaven, watching everything we do. And He also lives inside each of us and He can see everything." Oh, ponder time! And then, "So that means I'm Jesus' house!" (We knew that he had asked Jesus into his heart.) Dad affirmed him, "Actually, that's exactly how the Bible describes it!" Then came our grandson's application questions, "Is Mommy Jesus' house?" "Yes." And you're Jesus' house?" "Yes." "And my little brother is Jesus' house?" (Well, his little brother then was too young to give his heart to Jesus yet.) Daddy said, "Well, not yet." Good. Sounds like Daddy passed the theology test.
Over the years, we've always tried to keep the real mission and meaning of Christmas in front of our children. Taking food and clothes into New York City, for example, to give to homeless people there. It put a whole new face on Christmas. Only a few miles from our home we were face-to-face with the tragedy of people without any place to call home. I remember the time when I went into the city to talk with some homeless people for my youth broadcast - to try to open my listeners eyes and hearts to a needy world. One man was living on the street, near a major bus terminal. His house was a large, tattered cardboard box. He actually allowed me to crawl inside that box with him, and it was heartbreaking that a box was home. At Christmastime - well, at any time. Wow! It's just a tragic thing to be without a home.
Our boys used to approach Christmas as methodically as like a military campaign. They painstakingly made their Christmas lists sometimes like October? You know, you must get the jump on anybody who wants to buy you underwear or socks. Right? So, they listed what they wanted in priority order, with what they called "the big one" right on top, circled and surrounded with big stars around it. One year, our oldest son had the year's hottest toy on top. I knew I would have to break my pattern and do this particular shopping early. So right around Thanksgiving, I bought it before it became virtually "ungettable." But my son must have reminded me about that like twenty times between then and the day he got it - that very happy Christmas Day. Of course, I just smiled.