It was just one of those shocker stories on the evening news. An American airplane had been shot down by a Peruvian jet fighter. But it wasn't a drug plane like some the Peruvian Air Force has shot down in recent years - it was a missionary plane carrying a young missionary family. The gunfire killed the mother, Ronnie Bowers, instantly, along with their baby girl seated on her lap. The plane went down and, miraculously, the pilot, along with Jim Bowers and his son, managed to survive. Their escape from the crash and the river was amazing - but no more amazing than what happened at Ronnie Bowers' memorial service a few days later. Jim Bowers stood before a packed church and summarized in two words what he was feeling in the midst of this horrible loss and ordeal. In his words - "inexplicable peace."
The folks at our local bakery are some of the most effective marketers I know. They don't give you a sales pitch, they don't have highly creative advertising. They just offer samples. For free - one of my favorite words. I walk in to buy two bagels. There, on a plate on top of the display case, are these little bites of cheesecake, and a little sign that invites me to try one. So, I do. I walk out of that bakery with my two bagels and a cheesecake. Now I hadn't planned to get a cheesecake, but they sold it in the best possible way, just by letting me taste it. The taste made me want the whole cheesecake!
My friend Don is a wonderful family doctor. But some of the greatest moments of his life have been spent, not in a doctor's office, but on the river - preferably a river with some very challenging white water. He's a veteran kayaker and river rafter - with some fascinating tips for us folks who don't have his experience. He told me that, as a teenager, during his first days on the river, he was amazed to see canoes and kayaks just "hanging out" in the middle of these raging rapids. Then he learned the secret of this amazing feat - there are quiet eddies behind some of the big rocks in the rapids. And those canoeists and kayakers had found a place to rest in very turbulent waters - behind a big rock.
Last week I was going through the all too frequent ritual of standing by an airport luggage carousel, waiting for Big Bertha - that's what I've named my suitcase since we spend so much time together! Suddenly the monotony was broken for all of us by this really cute scene - try to picture this. Here comes one of those luggage carts that looks sort of like a big grocery cart without the big basket, pushing it is this very little boy, still in pampers, barely able to walk - about one-fourth as tall as the cart.
Actually, the boy thought he was pushing the cart, actually his Daddy was right next to him with his hands on the bar above his son's head. Now, the cart was staying on a straight course, it was moving at a good speed...and finally the little guy got frustrated because he wanted to push on the handle bar which was way over his head. So in order to continue the illusion of "little boy pushing" Daddy picked him up, held him horizontal and let him push on the bar. But, needless to say, his father kept one hand on that cart, of course! Despite the way it looked to this little cart jockey, it was his father who was really making it happen.
My wife's dad didn't want the holly bush by his carport anymore, but my wife did. Dad said if we would dig it up, it was ours to transplant at the little Ozark farmstead that my wife inherited from her grandparents. Sounded simple. It wasn't. It took shovels, a chain, a pickup truck, and some major engineering to get that stubborn bush out of the ground and into the truck. Well, we quickly transported "Holly" to the farm, immediately dug a new home in the ground for her, and got her replanted. Then my wife poured on the water and the nutrients. See, just removing that bush from where it was turned out to be only half the battle. We had to get it replanted quickly in new soil - or it would never make it!
If you've ever had a teenage son, you'll know this answer. When a teenage boy gets home from school, what's the first question he asks? "What's for dinner?" Now one of our boys' unfavorite answers to that question was that dreaded "L" word - leftovers! That was especially scary after Thanksgiving, when we found it seemed like that turkey would never end. Now leftovers aren't too many people's first choice for a meal. Right? And the longer they've been left over, the more unsatisfying that choice becomes. I know I've never been to a restaurant who offered an item called "leftovers" on today's specials, or anywhere on the menu for that matter. Let's face it. They're second best - at best.
There's this little bare spot in the grass in our backyard. It's been there since our boys were little. That was the first home plate they ever knew. Yes, that's where I taught them their first lessons in how to play baseball. Now our backyard isn't very big, so we had to start with a plastic bat and that little white plastic ball called a wiffle ball. But as I pitched and our boys learned to swing, there was one lesson I tried to permanently tattoo on their brain. It was the lesson my father taught me, that his father probably taught him, that somebody has taught every person who ever picked up a baseball bat - the most basic secret of success in sports...keep your eye on the ball!
Caterpillars are ugly. Now I don't mean to be critical, but let's face it, those hairy crawlers are not the beauty queens of the animal kingdom. I've never heard of anyone with a caterpillar collection, have you? Oh, I suppose someone could try a makeover on a caterpillar, you know, just shave off some of that hair, give him a little color. But who could ever imagine that one of the uglier critters around could actually become one of the most beautiful animals in the world - a butterfly! You don't see many pictures of caterpillars on things, but you see pictures of butterflies everywhere! A critter covered with ugly black hair becomes a butterfly splashed with amazing colors. An animal that lives off the leaves on the ground becomes the connoisseur of flower nectar...and a creature that once crawled everywhere becomes one that can fly everywhere. We're not talking makeover here. We're talking miracle!
Sounds crazy at first. People trying to cause an avalanche. Actually, there are people who do that for a living. One of the many things you can learn watching the Discovery Channel! Obviously, people who get caught in the path of an avalanche of tons of snow have little chance for survival. Skiers, snowmobilers, hikers have all been the tragic victims of what is called the white death. Now enter the specialists they call the avalanche hunters. They drive into areas where potential avalanche conditions exist and, using this slender, hand-held cannon, they fire shots into dangerous snow masses. Well, these folks are not crazy. They actually trigger a small avalanche - which removes some of the buildup that can later cause a major avalanche.
It has always been challenging to take our "On Eagle's Wings" team of young Native American believers to do reservation outreach. But going to Alaska to do it has meant a really challenging challenge! With a suicide rate 20 times greater than that of the rest of the young people in America, the young Native Alaskans are a desperate mission field. You can probably imagine that the logistics of this kind of outreach are pretty exciting - especially when some of the villages you're in are 400 miles from the nearest road! The entire team has to be transported by missionary planes and fishing boats! Since the planes are just single or twin-engine aircraft, you can choose between taking less people with more luggage or more people with less luggage. Since we need every seat filled with a team member, the sacrifice is going to be in how much baggage each of us takes. The limit is 20 pounds per person - for five weeks! It's hard to travel that light, but it's important. When you carry just the basic essentials, you can move more people and go a lot farther!