There's a lot of talk against smoking these days. Apparently our van hasn't got the message. On this recent trip our 1982 van decided to take up heavy smoking. We had just arrived in this town where we would be staying and suddenly our teenaged van started belching out serious smoke! Some Christian friends directed us to a Christian mechanic we could trust and he gave some exciting news that our engine had blown and we needed to replace it. Well, after investigating all our options we decided that those dollars would do more repairing our vehicle than replacing it except we didn't have any dollars to put towards it. That breakdown launched a series of miracles that we never could have anticipated when things seemed to be falling apart. The believers in that town found out about what had happened somehow. They supplied us a loaner car and in an act of love that blew us away they put together all the money needed for a new engine. Our incredible Lord loved us and helped us through His wonderful kids. When God steps in, the result is above and beyond all that we could ask or imagine. The mechanic actually found an engine that was considerably more powerful than the one we had lost! I was driving with it yesterday - you should see me go!
My thumb is not and probably never will be green. But I think my friend, Mel, was born with a green thumb. He has one of the most beautiful fruit and vegetable gardens I think I've ever seen. More than once I've literally asked him to take me on a tour of his garden. Now, city boy always learns a lot in that garden. On my last tour Mel showed me a garden spider at work, for example. Actually he wasn't at work, he was at dinner. He was just finishing filet of grasshopper, the latest insect to be caught in his web. Now, while I was watching another grasshopper flew into the bottom of that web a few inches below the spider. Since the web is sticky, he stayed there. Mr. spider left his dinner and slid down this silk thread like a fireman would slide down his fire pole in a maneuver that you would have missed if you looked away for even a second. This spider spewed out a bombardment of silk and thread that totally encased and imprisoned that grasshopper. It was over in seconds! From the tiny touch of the web that grasshopper never stood a chance.
If you've been to Disneyland or Disneyworld you've probably experienced an attraction called "Small World." You get in this little boat and you're propelled along this winding canal where you're surrounded by animated dolls from every conceivable area of the world. They're all children. Arab children, Indian children, French children, Mexican children, Eskimo children - you get the idea. These animated children are singing to you "It's a small world after all, it's a small world after all, it's a small world after all, it's a small, small world." You say, Ron, those lyrics are monotonous. You should take the ride! You get to hear it about fifty times. The singing dolls are cute, and the song's okay for a little while, but by the time you hear it over and over and over, you have had enough of a small, small world!
In certain parts of the country taking out the garbage is no brainer. Not where we live in the Metropolitan New York area! We are talking pages of trash regulations including what to do with plastics, different colors of glass, aluminum cans, leaves, branches, tires. Well, my friend Craig isn't used to all these regulations because he just moved here. So he let his garbage pile up for the first few weeks in the area, with odoriferous results, shall we say? Eventually he had his own little land-fill developing by his back door. Finally he found the instructions on handling trash and Craig told me, "It wasn't that I didn't want to get rid of that garbage, I just didn't know how to."
On any given day you can probably turn your TV on sometime and the show will be on - Gilligan's Island. Yes! In fact, I'll bet you may even be able to hear the theme song playing in your brain. You see, that show was a big hit when it aired the first time. And now it just won't stop airing. Remember, there is Gilligan who is the terminally stupid first mate of the S.S. Minnow, the skipper, the millionaire and his wife, the Professor, the movie star - the characters are really well known. The plot was very simple, summed up in the theme song. These people went out on the S.S. Minnow for a three-hour tour and a storm blew them into some unknown island where they were stranded until the series finally ended years later. Some three hour tour!
It was a beautiful day for sailing, and our friend Dave had invited us to go out on Long Island Sound with him and his wife. It was not hard to decide whether to go. The Sound was relatively calm that day - there was a very gentle breeze and not a cloud in the sky - but suddenly Dave announced to us, "We're heading in." I couldn't think of a single, rational reason to waste the rest of such an idyllic afternoon. I said, "Why Dave?" He said, "To beat the storm." Right? I checked the sky again, and there were still no clouds. Well, we headed for the harbor and pretty soon Dave was lowering his sails and we went the rest of the way propelled by his motor, and sure enough it started sprinkling as we entered the harbor! As we tied the last canvas around the folded sails, the skies opened up and dumped! Now, I was impressed - and dry, thanks to Dave hearing some static on the radio, knowing where that station transmitted from and sensing that rain was on the way. He saw no clouds, but he expected the rain.
When I was a kid someone came up with a new idea for entertainment - not making hieroglyphics, no - it was called three day movies! If you're old enough to remember this, I hope you're enjoying your senior citizen discounts, you'd go to the theater and they'd hand you these glasses that looked like cardboard sunglasses and you'd settle in to watch the movie, but not for long - especially if it was a monster movie. You see, the monster would start walking towards the screen and then right out of the screen and practically into your face! Of course, if you took those glasses off it was just a flat old screen again and a flat old monster. But when you had those glasses on, you saw things that you otherwise would miss!
I think children go to secret seminars on how to manipulate parents. They are so good - so early - especially at bedtime. See the object is to squeeze out a few more minutes before having to go to sleep - right? Let's see, there's water - hmm - and then there's getting rid of the water, and, then there's praying some more, let's pray some more (who could be against that?) - ah, there's a sudden interest in talking about things, they are suddenly communicators, and then of course, the ever popular monsters in my closet. Actually, a lot of these things are based on real needs and real feelings. I mean a lot of children really believe there's a monster in their closet - and that the monster will come out and get them as soon as there's not a Mommy or Daddy in the room. I am sure glad we're all grown up now and we don't have to be afraid of a monster in the dark anymore. Well, except for one.
Oklahoma City. We will never be able to hear those words again without thinking of the carnage of April 19, 1995 - the day a terrorist bomb destroyed the Federal Building and 168 people who were in it. That day in Oklahoma City displayed the very worst in people - and the very best. That awful moment, pulled that community together in a way that it may never have been united before. I mean, all kinds of people threw themselves into the rescue effort - doctors, and nurses, and police, and firefighters, and everyday heroes, counselors, ministers, food suppliers. And someone wisely pointed out that suddenly white didn't matter, black didn't matter, Methodists didn't matter, Baptists didn't matter, old, young. There was one compelling need that had incredible power to erase all the categories.
Okay, this is a word association test! Fruit salad. What did you think of? Well, it depends whether or not you've been in the military. You see, if you haven't been in the military, you probably thought of some little pieces of apple, or melon, in a bowl together - but if you've been in the military you may have found something far less edible than that. We just called a Desert Storm veteran and I did that with him. I said, "What do you think of when I say "fruit salad"? He said, "Oh, ribbons and medals." That's right! To the military it's all those medals - that kind of "fruit salad" matters a lot to people in the military. They are the record that all the world can see in your achievements, in your service to your country. When one of America's top military leaders committed suicide, it was believed that a controversy over his medals may have contributed to that tragedy. He was wearing a medal that was only supposed to be worn by those who have been in direct combat contact. His wartime service on a ship didn't qualify according to his critics. When you've served your country, your service awards are serious business. There are some soon-to-be-issued awards that will go to some very surprising, and surprised people.