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The most boring part of any youth group outing is the long bus trip, especially if the trip is from Michigan to Arizona. Not long ago I interviewed some kids who went on this mission trip to the Navajo Reservation, but I don't think they will remember the trip as boring. Because of the carelessness of another driver, their bus had to swerve sharply at one point and the bus went off the road and started to roll all the way over into a ditch. Needless to say, it was very scary. One-by-one they emerged from the bus and thank God, no one was killed. Some were injured and had to be treated at a local hospital. Well, when they finally arrived at that Indian reservation they were a sorry looking bunch. They weren't able to bring all their luggage with them, some were on crutches, in braces, patched, bandaged. But when they found out at least one reason why the bus had rolled well, they have been thanking God for that accident ever since!

In my little world, "nuke" is just a word to describe what happens to my leftover when I put them into the microwave. But when I was doing a week of outreach on an Air Force base, nuke meant something far more lethal - as in nuclear missile. This particular base was home to scores of the missiles that have been part of the front lines of our nation's defense for years. They're kept in underground silos, surrounded by very high-tech security systems. It was my privilege to be taken on a visit of one of the launch control centers there, each one of these command centers is responsible for ten missiles. At the time I was there, the center was manned by two airmen who were on 24-hour shifts called "alerts." When they were on "alert," they went underground into a fully self-sustaining unit that contains both the launch systems and the systems that protect those missiles from intruders. They showed me the systems which monitor virtually every movement every minute for their ten missiles sites. In fact these protection systems are so finely tuned that a plastic bag blowing across the prairie can trigger it, or some rabbit who has no idea what is under his little feet. Frankly, I was encouraged that we have crews like this that are on full alert - what they're responsible for needs full alert!

Our dog Missy now has to share our attention with another pet, actually it's a canary who we named in honor of one of our Native American friends, we named the canary Cherokee. This little yellow cheerleader is great for when you're in a bad mood, because he never is. As soon as you uncover his cage in the morning, he starts warbling his repertoire of happy tunes. It may be a sunny day and you got happy singing all day long. It might be a miserable day guess what happy singing all day long. The people around our canary may be happy, or stressed, or noisy, or quiet, or down, it just doesn't matter. No matter what, he's singing!

When I check my suitcase at the airport - and then I see it disappear as the conveyor belt carries it beyond the curtain into the black hole called - the luggage-zone. I sometimes wonder how my bag is going to be handled. I don't know exactly what baggage handlers do, but I do know that Bertha - I've named my bag since we spend so much time together - she may get tossed, buried, squished. That's why I ask for a special sticker when I'm checking a bag that has something breakable in it - like my last trip, for example. There were a lot of plastic items in my bag that could have been shattered if the handlers got rowdy. So I simply asked for the protection of that bright red sticker with the picture of a fine drinking glass on it - the symbol of breakable. And I hope that somewhere in the luggage-zone that one seven-letter word will make a difference in how my things are handled - the word - fragile.

My friend Billy knew where his parents hid the Christmas gifts. Well, he's an adult now but he still remembers the year he that he acted on knowing where the gifts were. His parents were gone and he sneaked downstairs. He went into the closet and nothing was wrapped yet, opened up the shopping bags and there they were. He folded up the bag and went back upstairs. His parents never knew. Now it was Christmas morning and you have to know that Billy had the reputation for being Mr. Christmas in his family. He never needed an alarm clock on Christmas morning. His parents told me all you have to do is have him get you up about 5 a.m. He's set to go off on Christmas morning. But this particular Christmas everybody was downstairs. They were beginning to open their presents and they suddenly realized, "Whoa, Whoa Billy is not here." Well Dad went and got him and he said, "It's Christmas son. Are you coming?" "Yeah," and he came shuffling downstairs, opened his presents, expressed his appreciation but somehow he was just not into it like everybody else was. His dad called him aside and he said, "Hey, Billy are you sick or something? You're like Mr. Christmas here." Billy said, "Dad, I really blew it." He said, "I opened my gift early and I ruined Christmas." A lot of people have ruined what could have been an unforgettable celebration.

The occasion was a city-wide art contest. They were told to paint paintings entitled "Peace." While the judges were understandably attracted to this beautiful pastural scene that a local painter had painted. It was a green pasture. It was the puffy white clouds and the beautiful blue sky and a little boy going by with a fishing pole over his shoulder and a quiet brook and some birds. That got second place. First place - well, the picture was of an angry, stormy day at the sea shore as the ocean was beating against the cliffs and the cliffs were stark and dark because of the darkness of the storm. The sky in this painting was angry and black, green and purple. You had to look twice to figure out what in world this had to do with peace. But if you looked halfway up the cliff these little baby birds were nestled underneath the wing of their mother, and they were sleeping totally oblivious to the storm that was howling all around them. Now it's the Christmas season. It's suppose to be about peace; but, if you feel the holiday pressure like I do, seems more like a storm, a stress which leads us into those birds.

One thing I was never tempted to be was the neighborhood bully - you have to be big to be him. Now in the Chicago neighborhood where I grew up, there was a guy big enough to bully all of us - his name, believe it or not, was Boomer. If his mother named him that, it is her fault that he was a bully. Well, he was the first terrorist I ever knew - and I was one of his terrorees.

He threatened all of us little kids, he hurt us, and took our stuff. One day, I had had enough of Boomer's terrorism. So I marched down the street to his apartment building and went where no one ever went - to his back porch, to his door. Sure enough, Boomer came to the door, looking as nasty as ever. But I insisted that he give back the stuff he had taken. You say, "What a brave little guy you were." Sort of. Left out one small detail - when I went to stand up to the bully, my father went with me.

 

Well, some of us had to wait almost 20 years for it - but the 1996 New York Yankees finally won the World Series. Now they had to be the champs to do it - the Atlanta Braves. And after the first two games of the best-of-seven series, I thought the Yankees had gone into a coma - they got creamed. Ah, but that's when it got exciting - they came back to win next two games. The series was tied at two games apiece, of course - and the then Yankees appeared to doze off again in Game Five - they were behind 6-0! Speaking of dozing off, that's what at least one Yankee fan did - including the guy I heard buying a newspaper the next day. He saw the headline announcing that the Yankees had come back and won that game 8-6! He grabbed that newspaper, saw the outcome of the game, and then said some things I can't quote - after which he said, "I can't believe it! I gave up on them in the seventh inning and went to sleep!" He missed a great victory.

Gayle's parents were away - and they had asked her to check on their house while they were gone. Gayle's one of our ministry team. It was a pretty cold night - Gayle thought the heat should be on. She called her dad - in dad fashion, he said, "You should know what to do - done it before. Probably just a zone valve is stuck." So Gayle went to work on the zone valve - she really went to work on it. We're talking about desperate measures - like beating the valve to death with a screwdriver and actually breaking blood vessels in her hand in the process. It refused to stay open in spite of Gayle's vigorous encouragement. Valve 1, Woman 0. When dad got home a few days later, he went to work on it - and it was very easily fixed. Of course, he worked on the other valve - the right valve. Gayle had been working on the valve, it turns out, that was already working! He told Gayle she had made a simple mistake - she put a lot of effort into fixing what was already working - and no effort into what really needed the attention.

I have no official statistics on what I'm about to say - only personal impressions - but I believe the State of Pennsylvania is the roadkill capital of the Northeast - especially for dead deer. I've just seen many more deer by the side of the road there than in any state in our region - of course, there's a lot more of Pennsylvania too. But I read an article about the outraged mayor of a small town in Pennsylvania - the interstate runs through his community. The reason for his outrage? A paving crew was working on that road one day last summer - and they came upon a dead deer with much of its carcass lying on the road. Do you want to try to guess what they did next? Yes! They went right ahead and paved right over the deer!

                

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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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