We had spent a couple of days at the home of a friend at the New Jersey Shore, just a block away from the Atlantic Ocean. We arrived at night as this powerful storm started hitting our area. So we went to sleep with the loud lullaby of winds that roared around our room and pounded the rain against the windows like pellets. The next morning, the ocean was something to see. Crashing waves, a heaving tide, this wild and angry look, and all kinds of junk thrown onto the beach by all that turbulence.
My friend, Mike, had just started up his pickup truck when the trouble started. He was taking the truck out for a test drive for some people who had just bought it. And as he backed it out of the new owner's garage, it suddenly started sputtering and stalling. He couldn't keep it running no matter what he tried. He got to a phone and called the old owner and said, "What's the deal with this truck you just sold?" Well, the man who sold it is an honorable man, and he was really distressed about this suddenly dysfunctional truck. Then suddenly he asked Mike, "Did you happen to mess with the radio at all?" Yes, he had. The previous owner told Mike to go check these two switches that are right next to the radio. See, this truck has a wonderful feature, especially for the country roads that it travels so much. It has a reserve gas tank. Now, Mike had unknowingly turned off Tank 2, which was full of gas, and turned on Tank 1, which was totally empty. But the good news is that as soon as he switched from the empty tank to the reserve tank, Mr. Pickup Truck ran and ran and ran.
Once upon a time, a father and mother bird decided to build a nest in the vent in our kitchen range exhaust fan. We were on vacation, and the nest got so huge it made the fan unworkable. We learned it was there as we saw spiders hanging down from the hood over the stove. We really didn't want to kill a nest full of babies. By the way, we couldn't see them. No, we could just hear them when they were hungry.
Twenty-three seconds. It takes you longer than that to eat a slice of pizza, or at least it should. It takes me about that long just to say three or four sentences. Now, a short TV commercial is longer than that. But every 23 seconds, something absolutely amazing happens inside you. Your blood pumps through your body during that time, delivers oxygen and nutrients to all your cells, and carries away the impurities from your cells and starts back through again in 23 seconds. Mind-blowing! That's what it takes to keep you going. You've got to have that oxygen delivered regularly. You've got to have your cell garbage taken out regularly, and your blood gets it done.
My friend was used to handling heavy equipment, but he wasn't used to what happened that particular day. He had his trailer hitched to his dump truck. Now, you've got to kind of picture this: He was driving his backhoe onto the trailer. One little problem - guess it might be a physics problem. As the weight of my friend and his backhoe pressed on the back of the trailer, the rear wheels of the dump truck were suddenly lifted up into the air, which means there were no brakes on a downhill slope yet! So try to picture this: this man riding on a backhoe which is riding on a trailer, which is hitched to a truck that is heading straight downhill out-of-control. I said, "Man, what did you say?" His answer was pretty simple, "Oh no! Oh no!!" I guess he had absolutely no control. So how did he live to tell about it? Well, he threw that backhoe in reverse and he backed off as fast as he could. Balance was restored and the truck and the trailer - well, they jackknifed. And honestly I am not making any of this up!
Because of my strong love for Native Americans, I was especially interested in a story author Leonard Sweet told in a book of his. It's about a rite of passage that one tribe had for its boys when they turned 13. On that birthday, a warrior blindfolded the boy and took him several miles from camp. Then the warrior took off the blindfold and left this young teenager in this dark, dense forest. The young man was expected to stay there for the night and fend for himself. When it got dark, it got really dark. The trees were so dense he couldn't see the moon, he couldn't see the stars. Oh, but he could sure hear those eerie sounds of the wind, the howls of the wild animals nearby, and the rustling of the leaves that sounded like an approaching enemy. For most boys, it was a night without sleep. And then the dawn began to break. And then the young man could see the forest as it really was; the flowers were blooming, the majestic trees swaying in the wind, and the wildlife scurrying around for food. And then, the biggest surprise of all. The boy would see an imposing male figure, standing in the woods only a few yards away. He'd be startled at first, until he recognized the man. Unbeknownst to this frightened young warrior, his father had been there the whole time, ready to protect his son against anything that might harm him.
Our grandson wants to major in philosophy in college. A few days ago, we got to sample what kind of philosophy we might expect from his one-of-a-kind brain. It's not exactly Socrates. But it's interesting and within the reach of the common man. He received some gifts for graduation, and here's the philosophical gem he spoke to his mother: "You live. You die. And in the middle, you write thank you cards."
Every morning I have a date with my bathroom scale. Some days it makes me smile. Other days, I'm sad. So I need comfort food. Like donuts.
But years ago, our son had an unusually uplifting scale. He was working in youth ministry on a reservation and living in a trailer. He urged Karen and me to weigh on his scale in the morning. Karen was thrilled - she'd lost 15 pounds in a day! And so had I! Of course, we got wildly different results every time we weighed.
In his classic, "Old Man and the Sea," Ernest Hemingway told about a very weary old fisherman who, like most of his village, had had hard times most of his life. He's barely eking out a living, goes out one day and decides to travel farther than usual to fish. And to his amazement, he hooks the largest fish he's ever seen in his life - so big he can't even bring it into his boat. So he begins to tow his prize fish behind his boat, excited about what this catch could mean and how it might be the beginning of a wonderful turn of his fortunes. It's the dream catch of his life! But as he comes into the harbor and up to the dock, his joy turns back to an even greater despair than ever before. All the while that he's been towing his prize; the other creatures of the sea have been feeding on it. And all that's left of his dream is bones.
When our Native American outreach team went to Alaska, our only means of getting to remote Eskimo villages was by missionary aircraft. Man, those pilots - they were the best! I mean, many days we had to fly through low cloud ceilings and low visibility. On a day like that, our pilots were checking every hour on the weather at our end and at our destination. There was finally a break where we could fly, but it all looked pretty dismal when we took off. The pilot of the plane that I was in was instrument-rated, which actually enabled him to go to a higher altitude. The pilot of the plane accompanying us wasn't able to take the high road. No, my pilot kept in radio contact with the other pilot. Believe me, our planeload and the other planeload were seeing two totally different views. From where the other plane was flying - lower - it was dark, it was dismal, and it was really overcast. But we were above all that. We were enjoying this beautiful, sunny day with all those clouds beneath us.