Thursday, September 6, 2001

Maybe it's because my father-in-law was a corrections officer for a while, and I've heard his stories about the wasted lives behind prison bars. But whatever the reason I've always admired the men who minister as prison Chaplains. It's tough ministry but it's ministry where it's desperately needed. I've got a new friend, Bill, and he works as a prison Chaplain and he recently told me about an incident that touched me when he told me and it continues to touch me. Bill had been visiting this cell block and he went out in the exercise yard for some fresh air, he said. There was this clean cut, young inmate who walked up to him and said, "Hey mister! Are you broke?" Well, Bill kinda' fished around in his pocket and didn't find any money in there and the inmate said, "It doesn't matter, your money is no good in here anyway. Are you broke?" Only this time the inmate had tears in his eyes. And then here's what he said, "Mister, don't try to minister to people in here if you ain't broke, cause we all are." Now, that's not just inside prison walls.

Tuesday, September 4, 2001

Not long ago we met some wonderful radio listeners from the Sault St. Marie area of Michigan - way up north, you know, near the Canadian border. They told me this amusing, and slightly amazing, true story about a woman they met recently. She was driving from Detroit, which is about six hours south of them, and she was lost. So she stopped in at our friend's workplace, looking for directions. Now that's not anything unusual. But she walked in the door blurting one frustrated question, "Which way's Texas?" Texas! Well, for starters, ma'am, you need to turn that car around and go six hours back to the place where you started!

Monday, September 3, 2001

My wife was waking up to a sound she hadn't heard before - and she couldn't identify. It sounded like crinkling cellophane - and it was coming from inside our bedroom walls! Now, somehow I missed this little symphony, but she sure picked up on it. Since we were pretty sure no one was actually crinkling cellophane in our walls, we looked into other possibilities. Like carpenter ants, for example. And sure enough, that's what it was! Those little marauders were feasting on the wood in our house...and they were gradually eating our home! We didn't even have to think about what to do. "Hello, Mr. Exterminator?"

Friday, August 24, 2001

Our new grandson looks so tiny and fragile - and my grandfather's heart just hates to hear him cry, especially when he's really hurting, and the crying is long and intense. Like the other day when his parents took him to the doctor for some preventive inoculations. Now they've decided that's a step they wanted to take to protect their son from things like polio and measles and other harmful diseases. Of course, those loving reasons are a little hard to explain to a three-month-old. "You see little guy, there are all these nasty germs, and this shot will help immunize you." Forget it! It just hurts, and he doesn't understand why.

Thursday, August 23, 2001

First, the verdict came in - guilty. Then the sentence - death. And the last-minute appeals for a delay - denied. And finally the irrevocable outcome - Timothy McVeigh had to die for his crimes. The carnage and the tragedy of that bombing of a Federal building in Oklahoma City has left an indelible mark on our entire generation.

The death penalty, I mean even for a mass killer like Tim McVeigh, is a controversial issue. For some it's an important political issue; for others it's an important justice or humanitarian issue. But few of us have ever thought of the death penalty as an intensely personal issue. It is. For every one of us.

Tuesday, August 21, 2001

After our grandson was born, he wore these cute little mittens much of the time. No, it was not freezing cold in his house. It's just that he had these long fingernails - and since he wasn't very good at aiming his hands, he kept scratching his face with those nails. But in an early visit to the pediatrician, she recommended that the gloves come off. "Try to keep his nails trimmed," is what she said, "but even if you can't, it's better for him to have his hands uncovered." Then she said something that was news to me - "We've learned that when an infant can feel and touch things, their brain cells grow!"

Friday, August 17, 2001

Not long ago I got to take one of my favorite East Coast walks. You know, growing up in Illinois, I didn't know much about the ocean. So when we moved to New Jersey, I quickly developed a pretty deep love for the ocean. So it's no surprise that Ocean City is one of my favorite places to go, right? And I love to walk out on one of the long, rock jetties that reach out into the sea from the beach. I really love it at high tide when the surf is crashing in around those rocks. When you see some of those monster waves surging toward those rocks, it looks like there's going to be a classic confrontation between the irresistible force (the ocean) and the immovable object (the rocks). Well, I'll tell you, the ocean sure overwhelms everything else in its way. But every time those rocks I stand on meet the mighty power of the sea, the winner is always the same. The wave is shattered. The rock remains.

Thursday, August 16, 2001

Dr. Henry was one of the most challenging professors I had in college. And I anticipated the final exam in his class was going to be a monumental challenge. Who knows what questions Dr. Henry could throw at us from his incredible intellect! Well, word began to leak out about his final from the first students who took it. They didn't give any details--they just shared one surprising, tantalizing fact. They said, "There's only one question on the exam!" Well, most of us took that news as encouragement as we stood on the edge of academic survival. But when Dr. Henry set the exam in front of us, we weren't quite as encouraged. This entire semester of theology class had been devoted to what the Bible says about the person and work of the Holy Spirit. The professor's question? "Describe the Person and work of the Holy Spirit." Oh boy! Only one question. But what a question!

Wednesday, August 15, 2001

I think I've lost the same five pounds about 200 times--which would be just about enough to make six of me. Actually, I used to weigh almost 50 pounds more, and I lost it a long time ago. But, as you know if you have ever lost a chunk of yourself, the challenge is to keep it off. So I set 165 as my ceiling weight and then 160 as kind of my anchor weight. As my weight starts creeping toward 165 again--which it inevitably will, believe me, I have to reverse all engines immediately. I mean, it's just too hard to fight 20-25 extra pounds. I'd rather fight with five pounds any time...while it's still a more winable battle.

Tuesday, August 14, 2001

If you've ever given a child a helium balloon, you know you had better tie it to something--or soon you're going to have one balloon-less, heartbroken kid. That crazy balloon will just float away and slowly disappear, and all the while that crying child will be pointing at the sky and expecting you to somehow get up there and retrieve it. Now when you go from a helium balloon to a hot-air balloon--the kind that carry people--you don't want that balloon to just go drifting off somewhere. That's why they put those sandbags on hot air balloons--it called ballast. That extra weight holds a balloon down, it helps control the balloon, and, most important, it keeps it from drifting off. Balloons need ballast. So do people.

            

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Harrison, AR 72602-0400

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