I had a special visitor the other day – Steven, who is the son of one of our Team members. Cerebral palsy left Steven with some severe mental and physical limitations – in fact, more than any parents could manage at home. So Steven is in a special care facility – and he’s a special young man from whom his parents say they have learned so much about God’s love. Because he’s not home much – and because I’m away a lot – his Mom brought him in the other day so I could meet him. I was just on my way to the radio studio to meet a pressing deadline when Steven came in. I got to tell him how much his Mom means to us, how much she talks about him and loves him, and how much I liked what he was wearing. Even though we were just visiting for a few moments, Steven suddenly started pulling at his coat. His Mom said, “You want to take off your coat and stay a while, don’t you, Steven?” She said he doesn’t do that much. That really got to me.
Most of the top-selling Christian videos in America have the same name on them - Bill Gaither. He has assembled some of Gospel music's legends for what he calls "homecoming" musical gatherings. And as the videos have grown in popularity, some of yesterday's Gospel legends have become legends to a new generation. One of those is a pillar of Gospel music, Vestal Goodman. Belting out her songs with her trademark hankie in her hand, she uses one of the most powerful voices in her field.
But, according to her husband Howard, it wasn't always that way. In fact, he said that when they were first traveling together from revival to revival, Vestal had just this quiet little voice, which is pretty hard to imagine today. But he said something happened the day a storm blew through the camper park where they were staying and that storm destroyed most of what they owned. That night, at the revival service, Vestal got up to sing as usual - except it wasn't usual. Suddenly, for some unexplainable reason - no doubt, supernatural - she belted out her song with a power and authority neither she nor her husband had ever heard - and that has been her trademark ever since.
I was the Boone County Spelling Bee champion once. Aren’t you impressed? I held the title for a little while. That was soon forgotten, and someone else held the title. I’ve been chairman of some things, president of some things – but the titles come and go. You can be “captain”, “most valuable player”, “director”, or “Woman of the Year” – nice titles, but they don’t really have any lasting significance. There’s one that does ... and you’re a candidate.
Lenny Skutnik was just one of thousands of federal workers heading home from work that January night – the night Air Florida’s Flight 90 crashed into the Potomac River near the Pentagon. The plane had failed to clear the 14th Street Bridge, and it fell into the frigid waters of the Potomac. A few passengers who had managed to get out before the plane sank were in the icy river, crying for help.
Lenny Skutnik saw the plane go down ... he heard the cries of the passengers in the water ... and he jumped into the river to try to help. He actually managed to save the life of a woman who otherwise would have almost surely died in the Potomac that night. A couple of weeks later, during President Reagan’s State of the Union address, Lenny Skutnik, everyday guy, was introduced as a real American hero on national television by the President of the United States.
Anyone who has taken their child to Disney World has almost surely been required by Junior or Junioretta to ride ‘the ride’. It’s this little boat you take along the winding path of a brightly colored canal. You’re surrounded on all sides by singing dolls representing children from every part of the world. And they’re all singing the same song with the same refrain: “It’s a small world, after all.” Over and over again, they sing, “It’s a small world after all ... It’s a small, small world.” And it’s cute – for a while. But after the 93rd chorus of that little song, you’re ready to swim the rest of the way just to get out of that tunnel. Inside you’re screaming, “I’m sick of a small, small world!” Actually, that’s how a lot of us are feeling about our life.
O.K., it’s no secret – I am technically challenged. So when it comes to computers, I know just the basics. But even I know enough to appreciate some things God provided for our ministry over the past couple of years. Like some new computers, that work much faster than our old ones. And we were able to upgrade some of our software. And the new software has capabilities that make a lot of things possible that weren’t possible before. When it comes to the computers that make such a difference in our lives, a software upgrade can take you to a whole new level.
The men in our family are avid football fans. It is not an uncommon malady in the American male. And no matter how many games you’ve watched, there is one highlight that never ceases to be exciting – when the quarterback lofts a long pass downfield to a receiver who leaps into the air to catch it. Unfortunately, as dramatic as those catches are, they don’t all count. Because sometimes the pass receiver steps out of bounds in the process of bringing in that pass. That’s why those players try every kind of twisting and turning imaginable to stay in bounds. Because it doesn’t matter how impressive the play is – if you’re out of bounds, it just doesn’t count.
In the course of working with our “On Eagles’ Wings” outreach teams, I have done a lot of driving across the Indian reservations of America. And some of them, like the Navajo Reservation, for example, have long stretches where you see only a handful of people or houses. If I follow my usual custom of waiting to get gas until I’m running low, I’m in big trouble. One night several years ago I was driving a borrowed station wagon which had a fuel gauge that was stuck on ¾ of a tank – except I didn’t know that. We struck out across the Navajo Reservation and ended up out of gas literally in the middle of nowhere. People who drive the reservation know there is a basic survival rule – take time to fill up with gas before you start your trip!
When you live in the Northeastern U. S. like we do, you usually pack your shorts and t-shirts about November and file them under "See you in April." But it was January - a big winter month where we live - and people were suddenly all over the place in their shorts and their summer clothes. It was 74 degrees! We figured either our calendar or our thermometer were wacky - but they both were right. It was a great experience - June days in January. Unfortunately, the weather fooled the bushes and flowers in our yard. They felt the warm temperature and said, "Ooo, this feels good. Must be Spring. Time to wake up!" So, sure enough, the buds started appearing all over our yard. But I wanted to yell at them, "Not yet, guys! This isn't going to last! It's too soon! This isn't going to work!" Unfortunately, I don't speak "Plant" fluently. And when the inevitable freezing temperatures returned, those poor early-bloomers were in for an awful shock.
When my family went with me on my first ministry trip to Alaska years ago, we had one important family goal - to see some moose! After all, people were telling us that local residents were literally running into them on the highway. So surely we would see at least one if we drove around. Wrong. When no moose came to meet us, we ventured into a moose preserve - a place where lots of them live. We spent two hours looking at trees - but no Bullwinkle. So, we basically gave up. Then the next morning we were coming out of the driveway of the house where we were staying, and suddenly our daughter screamed, "Moose!" There were two of those critters right at the foot of our driveway! And suddenly I was remembering the advice we received the day we arrived - "As long was you're looking for a moose, you won't see one. But as soon as you stop looking, you'll find one."