By far, the most exciting moment at Cape Canaveral is the launch of a space mission. You hear the man in Mission Control counting down, "3...2...1...Liftoff!" Then there's that huge cloud of smoke at the base of the rocket. Then you can see the blazing fire lifting that rocket and its' precious cargo off the pad and into the sky. It's a very impressive sight. But that's not the end of it. You don't just say, "Great launch. Let's go home." No, no. All that fire and smoke isn't just to have a powerful experience - it's to launch a mission, to make some things happen that would never otherwise happen.
I think I was a kid the last time I saw a three-legged race - it was at a Sunday School picnic. I resurrected the three-legged race a while back to illustrate a point to a group of teenagers. In case you've missed the thrill of a three-legged race, here's how it works. The racers run in teams of two. You tie the left leg of one to the right leg of the other, and they run the course as best they can like that. Run might be a slight exaggeration. They skip, they shuffle, they stagger, they limp - but run? Not really. It's really hard to run when you're tied to someone else who's slowing you down!
As a kid, I often rode my bike up to the old theater on 79th Street for the Saturday afternoon flick. But this day was different. They handed me this strange-looking pair of glasses, made of cardboard with tinted plastic lenses. Those goofy-looking glasses opened up a whole new world where the events in a movie no longer just stayed flat on the screen - they leaped off the screen and right into your face - in 3-D!
When we secured land to build our Ministry Headquarters, we barely noticed the barn that was standing on that land - until God blessed us with some truckloads of donated materials - which needed a place to be stored. Suddenly, we were taking a second look at this old pole barn filled with hay. The center was the only part that had walls - walls with rotting wood. The east and west sides of the barn had no walls, just some rotting old poles holding up a makeshift roof. We asked a contractor friend if there was any hope for the barn - especially since some folks had said to just bulldoze it. The contractor said the rafters and foundation were good enough that something might be able to be done.
One of our ministry team is a pretty enthusiastic auto-racing fan. If you're into that sport, then you know that Jeff Gordon is one of the best in the business. One of the people that helped him get to that position is the man who has been head of his pit crew. You've seen those high-speed cars swing into their service pit and only seconds later roar back into the race. My racing fan friend told me recently about a TV special on Jeff Gordon. On it, they interviewed the head of his pit crew - who, by the way, has a degree in organizational behavior. He revealed just how amazing the work of the pit crew is in a sport where seconds really matter. The pit crew chief said they will change up to 20 tires in one race - just think of what those speeds must do to a tire! And they change a complete set of four tires in 13 seconds - that's faster than I can finish off a bite of my dinner! The driver is the name everyone knows - but the driver knows he's nothing without his pit crew!
I got a wonderful letter the other day from Mike, who was a teenager in one of my Campus Life Clubs a looong time ago. He was reflecting on those high school years and his summer job as a lifeguard. Let me just quote from his letter: "Lotsa city folk who couldn't swim came out to our beach, and we went in many, many times for them. I was paranoid that I would lose someone on my watch and we never did." Then he went on to describe another nearby beach as a place "where suburban-trained swimmers go. They did lose a child when no one else was looking."
If you've been to Disneyland or Disney World with children, they made sure you got on this cute little ride called "Small World." It's this little boat that takes you on a trip down this winding little canal where these precious little dolls sing to you. They're dressed like children from all over the world, and they're singing this little song to you - "It's a small world after all." And it's cute - for a while. The problem is they keep singing it to you, around every bend, from every side. By the end of that ride, you are sick of a small, small world!
My daughter and I hugged a lot when she was little. Even when she got to be a grownup college student, we would still declare "hug alerts." Sometimes, when I hug my daughter, she'll say, "You smell like Daddy." Now, I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Now she hugs other men, of course - her husband, most of all, her brothers. She tells me that they smell like themselves, too. I guess it's good that I smell like Daddy - I'd hate to smell like someone else. The fact is that people do have a distinctive aroma, whether it's pleasant or unpleasant. And we remember the smell they leave behind.
There was no warning. All the power just suddenly went out in this building where we have our offices. No thunder, no lightning, no wind - just a sudden shutdown of our computers, our phones, our heat, all our power. In an instant, our building was dead. And it stayed dead for two full days making for some interesting opportunities to be resourceful, flexible, adaptable, inefficient! Our offices are in a pretty old building. And when they dug into the cause of the shutdown, they found that some antique electric part in the building had finally just died. Now, since this part was apparently original equipment - probably from sometime around the Revolutionary War - it was impossible to find another part like it. They don't make them anymore! So we're talking some creative electrical work here! Those old connections just couldn't deliver what is needed for today's demands!
I have tried to explain American football to people from another country, and it isn't easy. Imagine a man trying to explain football to his friend who's never seen it played. This friend says, "I'd really like to play football. Tell me about it." "Okay. There's this leather ball, and there's this 100-yard field with white marks. And basically, all you have to do is run from one end to the other with the ball." A month later the foreign friend comes limping up with his arm in a cast, his body covered with bruises and bandages. And then comes the obvious question, "What happened?" And this poor would-be football player says, "You told me about the ball. You told me about the field, but there's one thing you forgot to tell me. You didn't tell me about these eleven human gorillas who would be trying to stop me!"