I think most of us remember hearing that news first about Kobe Bryant's sudden death in the helicopter crash. I notice a deep sense of sadness people have. A lot of times it was like they almost had lost somebody that they knew. And then we learned his 13-year-old daughter had died and seven other extraordinary people were also lost in that crash.
Several years ago, it was like the talk of people watching TV. It was that show "Lost." I never got hooked on that series, but a whole lot of my friends did. I would often see the day after that they'd be shaking their heads, rolling their eyes, and they're kind of tongue-tied when it came to trying to explain what happened the night before. Well, one Sunday night, their long journey ended with this 2 ½ hour finale, creatively titled, "The End." I don't know how long they worked on that title.
When you use our kitchen sink, you might notice this little contraption attached to the faucet. It's one of those sophisticated water filters. Before the water arrives in your glass or your container, it passes through that filter. I don't like surprises in my H2O, you know? I don't know about you, but I don't. I was amazed the first time we took that filter off to clean it. Oh, it needed lots of cleaning! It had screened out of our drinking water this layer of dirty stuff. I didn't even want to think about that stuff going into my body. Let's hear it for the filter!
It still sickens me to see it on a news replay. Those plumes of smoke over Cape Canaveral - the awful trail from what had been the Space Shuttle "Challenger." Teacher Christa McCauliffe and six other crew members were gone before our eyes. Hard to believe it was so many years ago. Hard to believe the memories and the feelings are still so vivid.
It was a stark picture of what's happening on Indian reservations across this country. It was the funeral of another Native American young person. There are so many of them, and I've been to too many of them. Their number one cause of death is accidental death. It's often attributable to alcohol or drugs, honestly, followed by suicide, and then homicide. Seventy-five percent of Native young people die a violent death, and James was one of those. Our On Eagles' Wings team of Native young people had brought the hope that they have found in Jesus Christ to his reservation. Later, James and his brother actually traveled with our team to other reservations in the early years of our ministry there. But one deadly night, James became one of those awful statistics. We were honored to be invited by his family to the wake, the funeral and the burial in a small tribal cemetery. The men there stepped up to the open grave and they threw a handful of dirt on James' casket. Then most of the folks there left, except for his family and a few close friends. We stayed. There was a large, homemade wooden cross at the head of the grave. I'll never forget the scene of James' brother, visibly just shattered by shock and grief, hugging and just resting all his weight on that cross, like hanging onto it for dear life.
Both our boys played high school football if I signed the permission slip. My wife was not willing to sign on for what football might do to the bodies of her sons. And the more that's happening in the news these days, the wiser she looks. Well, part of the standard preparation for the next week's game was to study films of their upcoming opponent. You wanted to see how they operated because, well, you wanted to know how to defend against them. Most teams have a coach who is called the "defensive coordinator." It's a good idea to have a coordinated defense, or else your opponent is going to run right through you or right over you, which doesn't go over well with a mom who didn't even want to sign the permission slip!
There's been a run on graveyards these past years. Not because more people are dying, but because more people are connecting the dots in their family tree. There were some TV programs that show famous people pursuing the story of their family's past, and those have fueled an explosion of interest in genealogy research. Just ask the librarians who are welcoming visitors from all over to their newly-enhanced genealogy resources.
Nutmeg was a beautiful young horse with this white blaze on her nose and what looked like white boots on her feet. Her owners learned that her grandmother had actually been a prize-winning jumper. Apparently, Nutmeg had her grandmother's blood; she just kept jumping every fence her owners ever used to try to restrain her. One day, trying to get out of another fence, she broke her leg. The veterinarian told the owners it was the worst break he had ever seen in a horse, and there was no way to save her. She was a horse with such great potential and a very sad ending.
You know how it is after say a week of rain, you start to forget what the sun looks like. We had just been through a week like that, and it was like pouring as I was driving home. And, actually that's what it had been doing the whole week. You didn't even have to listen for the weather forecast; I think they just had it recorded. You knew what it was going to be the next day. Well, I glanced at this office complex of a major insurance company that was along the road on the way home. And what to my wondering eye should appear, but sprinklers! Yeah, all their lawn sprinklers were out and going full blast. Now, what is going on here? I mean, they were watering, drowning a not very thirsty lawn. After a week of torrential rain, the sprinklers were on! They were like saturating what was already saturated.
Americans kind of are trial junkies. I mean, there's like whole TV channels, you know, devoted to watching trials. Many of us are fascinated with high-profile trials that will sometimes headline our news. Legal proceedings seem to grind on for months, if not years, and then there are weeks of hotly contested testimony. Then suddenly it's in the hands of the jury. I've certainly checked the news to see if the verdict was in on some prominent trials. Then, after all those months, it's suddenly over. In a moment, the verdict is in. When the verdict is guilty, there is one more decision to be announced - the penalty. In some terrible cases, the penalty has been death.