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.
Every New York station that you turned to had the same bold graphic, Blizzard of '96. It was barely '96; we were only six days in when anywhere between 20-30 inches of snow unloaded on our Metropolitan New York area. It was like a mega-ton snow bomb hit New York City, and it literally drove the Big Apple to its knees. This is a city that doesn't shut down for anything except this monster storm. The schools were closed for an almost unprecedented two days. City workers were told not to come in and bridges to the city were closed. Some of the busiest streets in the world were bare except for an occasional plow or emergency vehicle that went by. The trains couldn't make it because of snow choked tracks. Major sporting events were impossible. I've never seen New York like that. The city that never stops had been stopped.
I've seen gridlock before in New York City. It's when vehicles are choking at every intersection and literally no one can move. Until recently though, I had never seen gridlock in a grocery store. The weatherman had forecast a hugh snowstorm for our area which was supposed to begin during the night. Well I stopped by the store about 9:30 that night, and I ended up trying to find the end of the line for the cash register. They only had two lanes open and there was a line of carts all the way to the produce section all jammed together so no one could come in, go out, or go through. What brought this sudden urge to shop? Word of an approaching storm.
Last summer while we were on vacation, we made some new friends in Arkansas, Bill and Darlene. They live on a beautiful farm in the Ozarks. They didn't always. When they first moved to Arkansas, they lived in a fairly primitive cabin along the Buffalo River, and Darlene told us that one of their neighbors was a classic Ozark moonshiner. He invited them over for dinner a number of times and Darlene said they finally ran out of excuses. Well, when they got there for dinner, the moonshiner told Bill, "Now you go pick out what chicken you want for dinner out there on the front porch." Bill did and the moonshiner just shot it down dead right there on the front porch. And then they came in and the moonshiner and his wife cleaned and prepared it right in front of their guests. Darlene said the jam on the table was alive with flies covering it totally. Well when their host offered them a taste of his moonshine, Darlene said, "I was really tempted to drink some to kill whatever I just ate." After dinner, the moonshiner was sitting in his rocking chair in the living room talking with Bill. Bill noticed some large holes along the floor of the cabin and he asked how they got there. The moonshiner said, "Well, we got mice," and he said, "I decided I'd stay up late and I'd sit here in my rocking chair. I'd see one. I'd pull out my gun and I'd shoot it."
It was one of those ministry trips where I had to take my office with me. I had my files and my computer, and I was going to three different cities so I had to be prepared for everything - from cold weather to hot weather. In other words I had a lot of luggage. I've got this one garment bag that ends up stuffed to the gills sometimes. I've actually introduced my bag to airline agents as Big Bertha! Well I was loaded with heavy baggage that day as I was paying my hotel bill. I looked over at the door I was going to be using to leave the hotel and to catch the van to the airport, and there was a problem. There was obviously no handle on that door. I had a heavy load and a door with no apparent way to open it. A problem? Of course not. You know what happened. As I walked toward that door, it opened all by itself, but I did have to walk toward it.
Recently I was having lunch with my friends Scott and Brenda, and they told me that the view had really improved at their house recently. They told me that everything in their backyard had looked so dirty and so dingy for a long time until the other day. They did something that totally changed the view. They cleaned the big window that looks out on that yard. When you're looking through a dirty window, everything looks dirty.
A dog and bubbles make a very amusing combination. I think my wife discovered this first when our little Shih Tzu dog was just a puppy, a new member of our family, the only one with four legs, and she was still discovering her world. My wife went out and got one of those containers of bubble lotion - you know, with the little wand that you could blow bubbles out of. We used them when we were kids. Missy cannot resist those bubbles. She'll kind of pounce there on the floor on a bubble as soon as it lands, and she attacks that thing. Of course, when there are some in the air, she is watching them come down. She's in an attack mode. The problem is that the bubbles disappear as soon as she gets to them. She starts to attack it or to put it into her mouth. It's gone - leaving this bewildered dog sniffing and searching, and she's looking up into the air at the rest of the bubbles coming down. She wastes an awful lot of energy looking for them.
During the winter it's really nice to think about a beach and all that sun. Of course the easiest way to cook yourself on the beach is to be there on a cloudy day. You say, "I don't feel a thing." But let me tell you by experience, the rays are still burning you. That's actually what happened in the tragic aftermath of that meltdown of a nuclear facility in Chernobyl in Russia a few years ago. Remember, thousands of children were invaded by invisible radiation and they didn't feel a thing. But after awhile they began to lose hair and their skin began to change. They got increasingly deadly symptoms, and finally many of them died. They were gradually destroyed by something they couldn't even feel.