It's pretty funny the lengths some advertisers will go to convince you that you should buy their product, like those Samsonite commercials. Remember, the suitcase in the gorilla cage, taking every form of abuse a gorilla could give it? And then there was the one where they threw it out of a plane and it survived. But the pioneers of this kind of "hammer it to prove it" advertising were the makers of Timex watches. Their motto was hard to forget - "Takes a lickin', keeps on tickin'." I don't remember all the ways they beat up on their watches, but it seems to me they attached one to a ski boat, one to the underside of a truck that was bouncing along a bumpy road. They gave it all kinds of hammering that proved the quality of their product.
The Garden of the Gods in Colorado is one of the most beautiful spots in America. And God has allowed the Navigators ministry to have their headquarters right there. My first time there was for a national committee meeting, where they worked us very hard. But finally someone suggested a hike to the waterfall. They told me this was some of the most spectacular scenery around these parts. Little did I suspect this was also an initiation for us rookies on the committee. Our walk started out on a nice path that ran next to this roaring mountain stream, and it was really roaring from the recent snowmelt in the mountains. Finally, we walked to this dead-end where there was only a rock wall in front of us. I said, "Where's the waterfall?" "Over there," they said, pointing across the stream. I asked the obvious question, "How do you get to it?' They pointed to this narrow pipe that spanned the stream and they said, "You cross the pipeline." I told them, "You cross the pipeline!" They were expecting me to balance myself on this little pipe and walk across? But that was the only way to get to the incredible beauty on the other side!
I'm a tornado and hurricane kind of guy. I mean I don't like them but, I've lived where you learn about those things. I'm not an earthquake kind of guy, I've never lived where those mattered much. But when I was in San Francisco recently, I was where earthquakes are a big deal! Most people there still have dramatic stories to tell about what happened during that big quake in 1989, the one that interrupted the third game of the World Series. Some of the heaviest damage and injury was in the Marina District of San Francisco. We went there to tape part of a radio program, in fact, we were right on the corner of Beach Street and Divisadero where several buildings collapsed or burned, including one that had been totally consumed by fire. One of the neighbors described the scene for us, one very different from this quiet neighborhood with beautiful rebuilt homes. The night of the quake it was total chaos. This neighbor described that awful fire with the unbearable heat that had destroyed the building on the other corner. He said, "The fire started out with a gas leak - it was very small. If I could have gotten over there, I literally could have put it out with a bucket of water. But then it started to spread and pretty soon there was no way to stop it."
So much of the furniture and equipment in our office is a God-story. He has miraculously provided so many things through His people - things we could never have been able to buy. One of those things is our telephone system. A Christian brother was upgrading the system at his company - and donated his old system to us. And that old system is great for us! Now our phones have this battery of buttons on them - most of which we have just been looking at or ignoring. We have had no idea what they do. Our Team has been so busy that no one has really had the time to read the manual! Finally, we assigned that research to Jeff - and the other day, he reported back to our Team. He showed us all kinds of sophisticated tricks our phones could do - and here we've been settling for just using a phone line and the "hold" button. These phones are amazing. They've been amazing all along. We've been slumming it - when we could have been going in style!
Sometimes I'll say kiddingly, "I've figured out what my thorn in the flesh is. My metabolism." It's true. It just doesn't turn calories into energy fast enough. Translation: I get fat easily. Years ago, my not-very-tall body weighed in at 210 - I've been about 40 or 50 pounds less than that for a long time now. And I want to stay that way. But I still have the same metabolism that got me to 210 - and the bakery, candy store, ice cream place look just as tempting - but I have to remember how hard it was to get that weight off! It's worth saying no to some temptations to avoid the struggle of getting back in shape!
Isn't it amazing how intrigued so many people are with the Titanic - 85 years after it hit an iceberg and sank? Two TV mini-series on it, a blockbuster movie, explorations of the wreckage, even sales of pieces of coal from the Titanic. But it's hard to get the picture out of our minds. The proudest ship ever built - the supposedly unsinkable ship - on its maiden voyage, and then the haunting images of her disappearing into the icy waters of the Atlantic. Some 1,500 people died that night! It wasn't that the Titanic didn't try to get help. They set off flares and radioed an S.O.S. - which was picked up by a ship named the California. Historians have generally thought the California was about 20 miles away that fatal night - too far to away to help. That was until we learned exactly where the Titanic went down. Looking at the location of the California that night and the location of the Titanic has revealed an awful historical secret. It turns out the California was only about five miles away! Which means they were close enough to save people - and they just didn't respond.
The scene is a high school assembly where I was speaking. I've asked five students to come on stage with me. One young man is blindfolded and standing in the middle of his four friends. They form a square around the blindfolded guy - one has a $10 bill to give him - if he chooses to come to their corner of the square. The problem is the other three are going to tell him they have the $10 - even though they don't. In fact, they each have something else to give Mr. Blindfold if he comes to their corner. One has a super-soaker squirt gun to baptize him with, one has a full trash can to dump in his arms, and the other has a whipped cream pie to put in his face. This poor young man in the center knows three of his friends will be lying about having the money, one will be telling the truth - but he has to decide, sight unseen, which corner he will go to. They each make their convincing pitch for why what he wants is in their corner. Then, he has to decide which voice he will follow. Right choice - he walks away better off. Wrong choice - uh, messy ending!
I met Gary when we were both working with our local high school football team. He was a coach - I was the football. Actually, I was sort of an unofficial chaplain for the team. Gary's basically a happy guy, pretty laid back. Until they come up in the conversation. They are the men who were prisoners of war or missing in action in the Vietnam War. When it comes to the subject of the MIA's who have not been accounted for, Gary isn't laid back anymore. He becomes very intense, very serious. He is one of a number of veterans who are determined to do whatever they can to make sure we do everything we can to locate or account for those missing soldiers. I was at a flag-raising ceremony where Gary participated in uniform. The rallying point of the veterans there was that black flag - you may have seen it. It has the silhouette of a man's head on it - the words P.O.W. and MIA - and a stirring four-word motto - "You are not forgotten."
Spring is nice - it means flowers! Spring is not nice - it also can mean floods! One North Dakota town saw it coming - the floods, not the flowers. And they decided they weren't just going to sit there an float away. Because of a winter that had produced mountains of snow, they knew where that snow would go when it melted - right into their homes and businesses. So, while the snow was still deep, they started to make an island out of their town. Everyone pitched in to literally build an earthen dike around the town. Yes, they would be an island - yes, they would be surrounded by a flood - but they made a wall so they would be safe in the middle of it!
When my friends tell me they get a headache, they don't get much sympathy. I usually just tell them that pain always attacks at the weakest point. They really appreciate that! Actually, we all have our favorite headache remedy - one or two of this pill or that and we wait for the relief as those pills race through our system. I know they do - I saw it on a commercial once. But maybe you remember a twisted act of individual terrorism that happened a few years ago, it turned relief into tragedy. Someone had managed to put poison in some pain relief capsules - there was a sudden series of deaths from some people who took this particular brand. I remember reading, for example, about a flight attendant who arrived home after a trip with a serious headache. She reached for a couple pain relief capsules. I'm sure she thought they would make her feel better soon. Instead, she died from them.