I know advertisers have to hate it, but the truth is that a lot of times we remember their commercial, but we forget their product. Recently, I saw a commercial like that. The ad really impressed me, but I have no idea what they were advertising. Anyway, it showed some scenes from explorations of space and some appropriate galactic scenery. And then, these words appeared on the screen, "The last frontier isn't space." OK, then what is it? The next words answered that question. "It's the human imagination."
When our friends got married some years ago, they decided they wanted to live and farm in a largely undeveloped area of the Ozark Mountains. They had some interesting neighbors - one in particular. He looked and talked and smelled like a true man of the mountains who had little use for "civilization." After they declined his invitation to dinner a few times, they finally consented. It was a memorable night. They stood on the porch of his cabin as he pointed to the hens running around the yard and said, "Tell me which chicken you want for dinner." They did and then they got to participate in executing the lucky winner. The conditions in which dinner was prepared would have given chest pains to any health inspector.
I think my fascination started at a historic old life-saving station on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It was there that I learned about the heroism of those crews who once manned those life-saving stations all along the maritime Atlantic coast. Their heroism actually gave birth to what we know today as the United States Coast Guard. Their motto says it all: "So others may live." Some of that modern-day heroism was portrayed in a movie called "The Guardian." It's a story about that elite group of 280 men and women who are known as rescue swimmers - the first responders who jump from choppers into violent seas to rescue people who otherwise would die there. In the movie, a veteran rescuer shows a film of a burning ship from which he helped to rescue some desperate crewmen. He frames the essence of their mission in some sobering words: "They're looking for a miracle to save them. You have to find a way to be that miracle."
Our friends Roy and Judy have been married for almost 30 years. But there are two words that took a beating early in their marriage and they still get a rise out of Judy to this day believe it or not. The words "trust me." You know there's got to be a story here. Years ago, Roy decided to try his hand sailing one of those little Sunfish type sailboats. He wanted Judy to go with him. Her back was really bothering her, but he assured her that he knew what he was doing. Of course, every guy does! "Trust me," he said. One problem: as they sailed away, the rudder kept coming off. That's all. That's rudder, as in what steers the boat. Well, Judy was extremely unhappy when rudderlessness ultimately led them to capsizing - a boat with a ten-foot mast stuck upside down in six feet of water. Beautiful picture huh? So much for "trust me."
You are probably a believer in heliocentricity, right? Now that is not some new denomination. It just means the sun is the center of our solar system and the planets, including the little tennis ball we live on, are revolving around the sun. We do sound a little confused about this sometimes, like when we say, "Isn't that a beautiful sunset?" Actually, the sun isn't going anywhere, we're the ones who are moving. But who wants to go for a romantic walk to watch a beautiful earthset? It doesn't have the same ring. But apparently, not everyone's got this orbit thing straight even today. The American Scientific Association did a survey a few years ago and they found that 21% (that's one out of every five Americans) that they surveyed thought the sun orbited around the earth, and seven percent said they didn't know.
We were speeding along the interstate in Texas, and suddenly there it was - a huge, illuminated metal cross. It just dominated the landscape, especially on the flatlands of Texas. That cross is actually 19 stories high and it can be seen from 20 miles away. They claim it's the largest cross in the Western Hemisphere. We've been by there before, but this was the first time we ever stopped and looked at it more closely.
If you want a unique dining experience, you could try my wife's Javanese Dinner recipe. Actually now my daughter has picked up that and I had it at her house just a couple days ago. Actually it's from a friend's recipe, but man it is a smash hit once people figure out what it is. I love to see people's reactions when they see all the ingredients that get spread out in bowls on the table. Your first impression is, "What does all this make?" There's rice, there's some chicken, there's a bowl of pineapple, there's celery over there, grated cheese, onions, there's a bowl of coconut, there are almonds, a bowl of crunchy noodles, and there's hot broth. I'm hungry now. Our guests invariably look kind of dubious, but we assure them they'll love it when it's all put together. And they always do! In fact, they always come back for more. Well, I do.
Roger was assistant manager of a buffet restaurant. He used to serve on our ministry team, and at one point he was telling me about a special memory from that job early in his working career. It seems there was a male customer who had been really abusive to the waitress. So Roger, being the ranking officer in the restaurant at the time, had the joy of trying to confront this gentleman - well, this man anyway. Unfortunately, this abusive customer was young, strong, all muscular and bulked up. And Roger, like me, well...not exactly Goliath. But he walked into the lion's jaws and he bravely asked that man to leave. Initially, the customer was ready for a fight. Then suddenly, unexplainably, this guy raised the white flag and he just left, leaving Roger a little baffled as to why this man had suddenly given up. That's when my friend turned around and saw one of the chefs who had been - unbeknownst to Roger - standing behind him all that time. And the chef, now he was a Goliath! Roger said, "Suddenly I understood that it was the big guy behind me that made the difference!"
Occasionally my wife would flip the TV on to one of those home shopping channels. And there actually were some good deals that showed up there, and sometimes I couldn't get to the remote fast enough. One day she saw this 14-karat gold bracelet and she decided to order it. When it arrived, it looked just as beautiful as it had on television, until our then two-year-old grandson got interested in it. He saw it on a dresser. Fascinated with this bracelet, he picked it up, played with it for a moment, at which point the bracelet totally fell apart. My wife said there was one drawback to ordering from television or catalogs; she just couldn't hold the jewelry in her hand and feel the weight of it. The bracelet turned out to be very attractive on the outside but hollow on the inside.
When World War II began, almost every American's life changed, including my dad's. He couldn't fight because of a medical problem, and he was working at that time in a plant that had been making some kind of industrial product. And suddenly almost overnight it was converted into a defense plant. They stopped making whatever little things they had been making, and they started to make airplane parts. Well, it was obvious what was happening. It was a war, and that plant had to be used to help win the war. During that time, not that I remember it personally (let me make that clear), people made sacrifices of gasoline, and food, and rubber tires, and money. Why? Well, because you know that everything is needed to fight the war. It was then and it still is.