Nine years old and I was oh so proud! I was proud of the gift I had just bought for my mom for Mother's Day. I picked it out myself. I paid for it with my own allowance. And I ruined it all by myself. It was a two-carnation corsage with a plastic bumblebee. I still remember it - it was really cool, especially the bumblebee. I was pushing the speed limit on my bicycle with the white florist box perched on my handlebars. You've probably got the rest right? I hit a bump, it went flying, I ran over my Mother's Day present. The flowers were crushed and so was I.
I saw an ad for one motel chain that had an interesting slant. Apparently, they wanted to highlight how very restful a stay at their motel can be. So as you watch the front of one of their facilities, you would hear only the persistent ringing of a room phone. It would continue to go unanswered as the narrator would point out that you may sleep so soundly at their motel that you might sleep right through your wakeup call. Now, assuming the motel guest has a flight to catch or appointments to keep that day, is that really a good idea?
Before D. L. Moody became the greatest evangelist of the 19th Century, he ran a storefront Sunday School to reach some of the street kids of Chicago. The story is told of one tough little guy who was seen on Sunday after Sunday, trudging by on his way to that Sunday School. He lived a long way from his destination. Well, on one brutally cold and snowy Chicago day, one man saw the boy walking into the wind, stubbornly making his usual Sunday morning journey to Moody's Sunday School. He asked the boy why he would make that effort every Sunday, even on a day when no one else was out, especially when he passed by a lot of churches that were a lot closer to his home. The boy's explanation was pretty clear and pretty simple, "I go there Mister, because they really make a fellow feel loved there."
I'm pretty sure there's a five-year-old kid in all of us (for sure there is one in me), and one place it came out in me was years ago when we took our kids to one of America's major theme parks. Like a lot of theme parks, we found you had to get there very early because you have to wait for some of the most exciting attractions. The earlier you get there, the shorter the line. Of course, you can't ride all the rides simultaneously, so even the early birds end up in lines a good part of the day. Now, at this particular park, some of the longest lines are (you're going to know where it is now) for a ride called Space Mountain. You might have been there. It's basically a wild roller coaster ride through outer space in almost total darkness. When we took the kids there, I asked someone coming out how long they waited in this obviously long line. "An hour," one guy told me. An hour? Well, we did it. We even went back later and did it again. We even saw a lot of teenagers - you know, people not normally known for their patience, enduring the wait for Space Mountain. Why? Because you have to wait if you want the best stuff.
My wife wasn't ever really very big on jewelry, but she took special joy in pieces that were family heirlooms, like an engagement ring that originally belonged to my grandmother. Over the years, the three small diamonds that had been in that ring had been removed. So, all that was left was a gold band with three empty settings. Well, my wife managed to get a great deal on some stones that she could have set in that ring. It wasn't particularly beautiful before. It's really beautiful now.
When you have three children, only one can be the first, of course. And that one becomes the one that all the others measure by when it comes to what privileges and treatment they should receive. In our case, our daughter is the oldest, followed by her two brothers. Now the kids could be getting along perfectly, and then suddenly the boys would learn about something their big sister got. Then I would hear the march of determined feet to my desk, followed by two boys asking in unison, "How come she...?" Followed by whatever goody she had gotten that they had not. Actually, knowing that kind of question was coming helped me make better decisions.
I think it seems like, well, maybe America's spiritual national anthem sometimes. I mean, how many times during times of tragedy have we heard the same hymn? Going way back to September 11, 2001. You heard it a lot then. You hear it in police funerals, fireman funerals. It's that centuries-old hymn, Amazing Grace. For years, they've played it at the funerals of fallen policemen and firemen and a lot of everyday men and women. It's been the subject of a public television documentary. And on the emotional anniversaries after September 11, at Ground Zero, what song do those bagpipers play as they approach the site which has now become hallowed ground? Of course, you hear the haunting strains of Amazing Grace. Even for people who don't go to church or know much about the Bible or even believe much of anything, they know Amazing Grace.
I have friends who really love to fish. So, in their honor I've got to tell you this great fisherman story. Actually, I have to credit Ravi Zacharias with it - that's where I heard it. It seems that two men were out fishing in separate boats. And the one was watched the other with this growing curiosity because he'd catch a fish, he'd keep it, then he'd catch another fish and he'd throw that one away. And he just kept doing this, you know, catch after catch. The really strange part was that it was always the big ones that he threw away. What kind of fisherman is this? Well, finally, the man watching all of that couldn't contain his curiosity, so he called out the obvious question, "How come you're throwing away the big ones?" The man answered, "Oh, because I only have an eight-inch frying pan!" Really?
My Dad worked to make the money for our family, so my Dad decided where we went on vacation - fishing. Now some people would consider that a dream vacation, but the high-energy, ten-year-old me? No, I didn't think so. After just a little while, I was complaining. I was bored, but of course we kept fishing. Did I mention that my Dad made the money? Well, actually, we did have a good catch there and they were good eating. Catching them was fun. Eating them was fun. In between, there was this one step that was less fun - cleaning them. But for that fish to realize its culinary destiny, it had to be cleaned.
City Boy here is a lot of fun to watch when he's trying to be Farm Boy. My wife and I were helping out in someone else's barn a while back, and the large shadow of something flying came over our heads. I hadn't seen the creatures yet; all I could see was this massive shadow on the wall. I knew my responsibility as a man. That's right, run for help! There was actually no reason to run. When we looked up, we saw what was casting those huge, unsettling shadows: yeah, some little moths, flying around the little light overhead. The shadow was scary; the reality behind the shadow not scary at all.