My wife and I were zipping down the interstate one day when we saw this long cloud of thick, blue smoke ahead of us. As we got closer, we saw that it was belching out of the smoke stack of a semi. The smoke was so heavy you could hardly see as you passed it. It was a good time to hold your breath. These two guys were driving along laughing, seemingly oblivious to the smoke, and the smell that they were spreading down the interstate. Then I noticed some black spots on our windshield, and of course I did what would be instinctive to do, I started to reach for my windshield wipers, and man I'm glad I didn't. I looked at the car in front of me and saw he had turned his on, and all he had done was streak oil all over the window of his car; he could bearly see. That driver probably thought the smoke was just his problem. Hey, it was a problem for everyone who got close to him!
Now there are some American cities that I just really love, and San Diego, California, has to be one of them. Not too long ago I was there for three days - I look forward to that man. I just love to get around San Diego - well I didn't, like an awful lot of meetings I go to. Of course I never got out of the hotel. I could have been anywhere! They put me in a nice room, and I was hardly ever in the room! Now, it was a great time of ministry, and that's actually what I went for so that was fine. But, I would race into my room between meetings and there was bearly time to use the facilities and change clothes and race on out. But no matter how much of a hurry I was in there was one thing I always checked on - the message light. Some phones in some hotel rooms have this little red message light and when they have a message for you at the desk - someone's called you, or sent a fax, or something - that light's on. That means you've got a message - and it's usually information I need. So no matter how fast I'm running, I always look for the message light.
The world's best selling book, but hardly anyone knows what's in it. It's the Bible, of course. Maybe you've had a hard time getting somebody to read the Bible, I think I can make you feel better. I mean, your problem is nothing compared to a fellow named Gabrielle. I was at dinner with a leader of an international Bible distribution organization and their representative in the country of Zimbabwe is named Gabrielle. Now his problem is not dust collecting on peoples Bibles, it's the Bible literally going up in smoke. You see, the pages of a Bible in some African countries are thought to be just perfect to roll a cigarette with. So, he met one man and was offering him a Bible and the man said, "Well, I'll take the Bible," but he said, "I need to let you know that if I take it, I'll smoke it." I'm going to give it to you, Gabrielle said, "I'll give you the Bible if before you smoke it, you read it." Well, he did what he said he would do - he read it, and then he smoked it, until, well, that's the exciting part...
It used to be that two armies would line up, then they would plunge into combat, and the best army would win. It was simpler then. Today it isn't necessarily the fellas with the best army who win, it's the one with the best air-force. It happened in World War II, it happened in certain Vietnam engagements, and it happened dramatically in the Persian Gulf War, remember? I mean, the air-force went in, they immobilized Iraq's capacity to respond, and then they kind of softened up the opposing forces, and there was an air war before anybody moved on the ground. And then once the troops started to move, the planes provided that vital air cover for their operations. Saddam Hussein had a big army, but he lost because his air cover just didn't function.
Well it was always fun to get the kids together and get all five Hutchcrafts jammed into a car for a long trip. And of course immediately we had turf wars in the back seat, especially as the kids bodies got bigger and bigger, and you've got three kids trying to figure out who gets which third or more, is the ideal if you can do it, of that turf in the back seat. Of course that was only one of our problems. After we'd been driving for a little while, well, sometimes I would hear these really gross sounds from the back-seat, and what was happening was this, our poor first born, our daughter was getting sick and her brothers would kind of imitate some of the noises she would make as she was feeling more and more confined in that back seat because if she got the middle and couldn't get neat a window it wasn't good for any of us! Hey, she had a touch of claustrophobia, she needed some space.
A lot of us will tell our grandchildren about the winter of '96. In the New York area we had a double hit. It just about buried us, or sank us, or both! Now snow can be beautiful. It can be fun. I've always enjoyed the unique charm and beauty the snow brings, but not when there's three feet of it in one day! It's too much of a good thing. A lot of wet moved up from the south and it met a lot of arctic cold coming down from the north and we were shoveling the result for days to follow. I told my wife, "We won't see our yard for months!" I was wrong. A couple of weeks later some more "lot of wet" came from the south. Now rain is good! When we don't have enough of it for our reservoirs we get a drought here. Warm is good! It melts mountains of snow. But a lot of wet met a lot of warm and everything melted so fast that we got floods! Two good things, but not good when there's too much of either one.
When I was a pretty little guy, my dad thought I should meet Paul Bunyan. He's that legendary giant lumberjack. Well, we were vacationing in Minnesota and there's this tourist attraction there, in Brainerd, Minnesota. Inside was this huge animated figure of Paul Bunyan, I mean, massive! He's sitting down with his giant ax and his giant ox next to him, and a little log cabin at his feet. My dad paid for our tickets and I walked in unsuspectingly, and suddenly Paul's voice boomed out across the park, "Hellooo, Ronnie!" As the kids say, "Freak me out!" This guy knows my name. It took me a lot more birthdays to figure out that the man at the ticket booth had quietly gotten my name from my dad and then relayed it to Paul's voice, who was hiding in that little log cabin. I was totally amazed that he knew my name!
Look up in the sky! It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Superman! Man, when I heard those words on my T.V. as a kid, I was in a T.V. trance for the next half hour. I loved to watch the exploits of the man of steel because he was faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Then one day Superman died, actually, George Reeves, the man who played him, and it was suicide. That was hard to take. Now for another generation, an actor named Christopher Reeve has been Superman, but then something tragic happened to him in a riding accident. He was thrown from his horse and left mostly paralyzed. It's happened twice. The part being played showed a man who was invincible, but "behind the role" has been the awful reality.
It's the mission the birds made famous. During our ministry trip to California, I had a chance to visit one of the most charming of those old Spanish missions, San Juan Capistrano. If you heard of it, it's because of the birds, the swallows. There are what seems like hundreds of swallows who like to hang out at that mission until about October 23rd every year then like a lot of northerners they fly south for the winter. Oh, but they will return. In fact, lots of local folk and tourists will be at the mission on March 19th, that's the day they will return. The time might vary a little but one thing you could be sure of when you see them leave, you can be sure they will be back.