Apparently, the airlines know you have to keep us Americans amused. They try to keep something happening on those video screens during much of the flight. If it's a long flight, you get a movie. If it's a shorter flight, you get shorts - not to wear, I mean, the kind you watch on the screen. And I'm usually so busy amusing myself with all the work I have to do, I don't pay much attention to the screen. But on this one flight, I did occasionally glance up at the girls' gymnastics competitions they were showing in the sports highlights. The big competition was between the United States and Russia, so my star-spangled blood was pulling for you-know-who. After each girl performed, they would do this little replay. I never saw a replay of anything she did right. They insisted on showing two or three times where she messed up. "Look, everybody - see the one thing she did wrong." That bothers me.

We have some wonderful Native American friends in the Northwest, and during last summer's reservation outreaches, they honored us by inviting us to stay in their home. We had a great stay, but I did have to learn a custom that was new to me. When you walk in their front door, you are greeted with a pile of shoes. Now, in many Native American homes in that area, it's expected that your shoes won't make it past the door. Which makes you think about what socks you're going to wear that day - probably not the ones that look like Swiss cheese, you know. Actually, to come into the house with your shoes on is really to dishonor your hosts. And anyone who has had to sweep or vacuum the trail left behind by dirty shoes knows this is not just about honor - it makes sense to not track dirt into a clean house!

When I'm in Mexico where our Latin American outreach is based, my "Taco Bell" Spanish doesn't get me very far. I mean, how much meaningful communication can you have when all you know are words like "enchilada" and "burrito grande"? "You look burrito grande today." Our Director of Latin American Ministry, David Isais, is a wonderful translator and my best hope of communicating while I'm there. Needless to say, I light up when someone there is fluent in English - I can converse unassisted! In the course of talking with one bilingual, Mexican man, I learned he is involved with automobile racing in that country, sort of the Mexican NASCAR. He's an engineer. When I asked him if they have anything like America's Indianapolis 500, he told me they don't do long distance races like that. They can't. Then I asked him about the pressure of repairing a race car during one of those pit stops, and he informed me that they don't have pit stops. They don't stop. But they can't go as far as cars that do.

When it comes to the Olympics, it seems as if there are always certain athletes that give the Games a personal touch for us. In the 1994 Winter Olympics, we all wanted to see the women's skating showdown between Nancy Kerrigan and Tanya Harding. In 1998, it was two teenagers named Michelle and Tara. Michelle Kwan was heavily favored to leave Japan with the gold medal; 15-year-old Tara Lapinski was expected to bring home the silver. But in a stunning performance - and Olympic upset - Tara Lapinski captured the gold. Michelle Kwan - who had skated an almost flawless program - was disappointed, but gracious. She won a silver medal that so many would love to win, but you know it still had to hurt. Some of that hurt slipped out as she sent a message to her family as TV carried it around the world. She said, "I love you, Mom and Dad, and Karen and Jimmy. I hope you still love me."

We have a wonderful Christian radio station in our area. Well, it's wonderful if you can hear it. A lot of people can. But I just talked with a friend who lives another direction who says she just can't pick up that station where she is. But then I've met people who live in a part of the area where the station has a strong signal - and they've never heard it either. They have never turned to that frequency. Important information is being communicated over that station - actually, eternally important information. But a lot of people are missing it. Some because the transmitter isn't transmitting their direction. And others because their receiver isn't tuned into that frequency!

Kissimmee, Florida is right in the middle of some of Florida's most exciting tourist attractions - so it's usually associated with happy times. But in February of '98 the headlines were about tragedy in Kissimmee, with 38 people killed in the deadliest tornado outbreak in the state's history. In its lead front page story, USA Today told about one couple who cowered in horror, it says, "as their house literally broke apart around them. The garage door blew open and tore away. The door into the kitchen opened, and the wind sucked like a vacuum cleaner, pulling their five-year-old daughter, Elissa, away. Her dad said, 'She was horizontal, and my wife was holding onto her legs. There was all this glass and everything started to disappear, all the furniture, the insides of the walls. If my wife had let go of Elissa, we wouldn't have been able to find her.' But Judy's grip held. And in a few moments, the tornado had passed and Elissa was safe in her arms."

 

Here's what my airline ticket said - Friday afternoon Ron will fly from Newark to Houston - and then an hour later, he will take a connecting flight from Houston to Guadalajara, Mexico. So much for what the ticket said. I was on my way to be with the Director of our radio outreach to Latin American young people. But little did any of us know that my flight would be delayed for a last-minute repair. A lot of passengers were concerned because many of us had connecting flights in Houston - many of us to various destinations in Mexico. Well, the good news was they finished that repair in enough time for most of us to still have a shot at making our connections. That was the good news. That's when the pilot said, "But we do have another problem - the copilot's seat just broke." Yeah - right! Now listen, I have flown a lot, but I have never heard of the pilot's seat breaking. Now apparently they don't have a spare copilot's seat at the gate, just in case - it took quite a while to get another one. I got off to make a phone call - and, sure enough, there was a dead seat, lying face down in the jetway. Oh well.

Now I don't do movie reviews, and I sure don't recommend movies. But I laugh just hearing about this Bill Murray movie called "Groundhog Day." I understand that it's a pretty popular video rental. It's about this TV weatherman who goes to Punxsutawney, PA - the hometown of the famous ground hog - to broadcast that fairly goofy American tradition. We're supposed to be able to predict whether or not there will be six more weeks of winter weather based on whether or not the ground hog sees his shadow on February 2nd. But that's not the point of the movie. The weatherman, who has a serious attitude problem, wakes up at 6:00 A.M. the next day, only to experience exactly the same events he did the day before. And every new morning, the clock radio goes off at 6:00 A.M. and awakens him to the same old song - "I Got You, Babe" by Sonny and Cher. And day after day, he sees the same people, he experiences the same relationships, the same places, the same rhythm - even down to the guy in the diner dropping a plate the same time each day. It just about drives him mad - experiencing the same day over and over again.

Michelle and Tara - they were the darlings of the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. Now, Michelle Kwan was favored to leave Nagano with the coveted gold medal for women's figure skating. Fifteen-year old Tara Lapinski was widely expected to win the silver as the second greatest female skater in the world. But, to the surprise of most of the world, Tara skated to the gold as the youngest skating gold medalist in Olympic history. Michelle Kwan went home with the silver. One morning after commentary said of Tara Lapinski, "She was too young. Too immature. Too unrefined. It wasn't her turn. The reason Tara Lapinski couldn't win the gold medal is the reason it hangs around her neck today: She was a kid." The writer went on to observe that while Michelle Kwan stayed with her parents in her room most of the time before her performance, young Tara was marching in the Opening Ceremony, mingling with other athletes, cheering for her team at other events - even playing video games and football. And then, "it was time to skate the long program. There was no fear. No nerves." Michelle talked about being, in her words, "more cautious." But for the gold medalist - they called it "no fear."

I remember that one time years ago that our area had a garbage strike. I think we've finally gotten rid of the special aroma in our garage after all these years. See, the garage It just piled up while the sanitation folks figured out their deal - and it took a while. Since I know how nasty the garbage can get, I'm sympathetic to the man I heard about recently. There was a garbage strike in his area, and he came up with a creative way to get rid of all that accumulating junk. He simply took some of his garbage each day, put it in a box, and gift wrapped it. Then he left that little gift each day on the bus or the subway as he commented. I'm not sure what happened to any of the lucky recipients of all those packages, but you have to admit - if you've got garbage to move, it's pretty smart to gift wrap it.

            

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Ron Hutchcraft Ministries
P.O. Box 400
Harrison, AR 72602-0400

(870) 741-3300
(877) 741-1200 (toll-free)
(870) 741-3400 (fax)

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