There was this violent thunderstorm, and about 18 hours followed without electricity. Fortunately, my wife was never without candles, so we had a nice candlelit dinner at home. I read the newspaper by flashlight. We easily survived without our television. We even played a board game by candlelight. Go figure! But there was no electric power in the house. Not after that huge lightning bolt found its target in our yard - the transformer that sets on a telephone pole not far from our house. My wife saw it, and apparently it was a pretty impressive hit. But there's no way you're going to have power when the transformer's down. I mean, that's what brings all that power in those wires down to where we can use it to like run our house.
It's a miracle my wife made it through college. Not because of her grades. I'm talking about because of finances. Halfway through, her parent's financial help suddenly stopped. It wasn't because they didn't want to help, they just didn't have it. See, they were running a small dairy farm at the time, and they needed a well desperately. So Dad sank most of his money into digging a well. The drought came. The well came up dry. You know what? Wells have a way of doing that don't they?
Our friend, Mary Ann, was just driving down the road and her precocious five-year-old piped up from the back seat. It was one of those moments. He said, "Mommy, didn't you say that Jesus was building a beautiful home for us in heaven?" She assured him that's exactly what Jesus is doing. "Well, Mommy, we've got our house here, right? And then we've got the mountain house, right? That seems like too many houses. Shouldn't we give one of them away?" I'm not sure how you answer a question like that.
Some kids aren't even sure what their school bus driver looks like. They're still asleep when he picks them up in the morning. But every child who's ridden in that yellow "limo" knows that the "chauffeurs" come in all kinds of flavors.
For many years, our family went to Ocean City, New Jersey, for vacations and conferences. There's this three-mile boardwalk, great Atlantic beaches, and family atmosphere. Those are all things that we can all get excited about, but something happened over those years at the beach. The beach shrank. Not all at once; it was a little at a time. It just got eroded. Eventually, the city fathers had a major challenge on their hands. They had to rebuild their bread-and-butter; those beaches that were slowly disappearing!
I'm used to turning on the news and hearing about bullets or ballots or budgets. But the Bible? On newscast after newscast a while back, the Bible was one of the lead stories. I mean, actually "The Bible." It was the ten-hour History Channel mini-series. It stunned everybody with blockbuster ratings, especially among young viewers. There were epic moments from Noah's Ark to the parting of the Red Sea, and of course David decking Goliath.
It was one of those winters when the bottom dropped out of the temperature in our area. I mean, folks there just aren't used to visits from North Pole weather. For a while, our favorite song was, "Freeze a Jolly Good Fellow." I was discussing this extended freeze with a friend who has lived in the area most of her life, and she actually helped me have a very positive outlook on the cold weather. She just said, "Well, just think - it's killing a lot of bugs!" Okay! Well, with all the ticks and the other pests we had the previous summer, I guess that was good news. So the next time I walked outside and felt a blast of that chilling cold, I said to myself, "Well, I'm turning blue, but the bugs are dying!"
She was just seven years old; the lone survivor of a plane crash that killed her parents, her sister, and her cousin. The sheriff said "she literally fell out of the sky into a dark hole." They called her survival "a miracle."
The book is called Good to Great. It's a thought-provoking book on management written by Jim Collins and a research team that he headed. They identified eleven of the most effective companies in the United States, and then they pursued this question: "What specifically makes these companies so different?" This research actually challenged many of the author's preconceptions. There were actually lots of surprises. Interestingly, the first thing Collins and his team point to as common to every one of these consistently successful companies is this, and it is a surprise - the modesty of the various CEOs who led them. They suggest that the starting point of a great company is a humble leader - highly focused, sometimes driven people - but known for being gracious, self-effacing, understated. I guess in a word, humble.