They called it the "perfect storm." The remains of a hurricane combined with some storm fronts over New England to create a weather monster. The movie, The Perfect Storm, tells the story of one fishing crew's heroic but unsuccessful battle to survive that storm. Author Peter Hiett tells of another battle for survival that took place to the south, just off the New Jersey shore. John had taken his six-year-old daughter sailing that same day, but he didn't check the weather report. Six miles out, he found himself suddenly in trouble as a major storm seemed to come from nowhere. It wasn't long before their boat capsized, and John and his daughter were in the water and their life preservers were swept out to sea with their boat.
It's pretty amusing to look back at your wedding pictures. At least it is for me. I can't believe my wife married that kid in the tuxedo, but I'm sure glad she did! That hour in that church began what has been a lot of years of wonderful love and partnership. I remember standing up at the front of that church feeling like a penguin in my tuxedo. The bridesmaids marched down the aisle and they looked so beautiful, but I didn't want to spend my life with any of them. Nope! The organ trumpeted the beginning of the bridal march and there stood my queen! A few minutes later, at the altar, that wonderful woman made some very special promises to me about her love, her commitment, her loyalty, and the permanence of our relationship. And I did the same to her. I had no idea what the future would hold, but I made a life-changing choice that day. I decided to base everything on a promise.
For me to think about it, it's just unbelievable the cultural phenomenon the Super Bowl has become in America and other parts of the world. It's like the whole country stops for this extravaganza surrounding the professional football championship game. More avocados are consumed on that day than any other day of the year, for example, in a guacamole dip at Super Bowl parties. Commercial time sells for millions of dollars for just 30 seconds. Big city water departments have reported major drops in water pressure, citywide, during commercials - as Americans take a simultaneous bathroom break. Even a lot of churches that have Sunday night services have decided they can't compete with the Super Bowl. A lot of them have chosen to have outreaches in the form of Super Bowl parties at their church. Our local TV news covered one church where they were doing that. Looking at the crowd, it was hard to distinguish which one was the pastor. Oh no wait, he was the one dressed in a black and white striped shirt - the pastor was the referee! How appropriate.
One sure way to get our whole family together in one room at one time was to turn down the heat a little on a cold night and then build a fire in the fireplace. Slowly but surely, the kids' rooms upstairs would empty out as they made their way downstairs and said, "Man, it's cold up there, Dad! You've got a fire in here?" Always worked. We all loved those fires. Building a good one involved several key steps, of course. First, you roll some newspapers into logs and put them into the fireplace. Then those little sticks that burn easily; they're the kindling, of course. Then the logs stacked alternately on the kindling, leaving plenty of room, of course, for air to circulate around the wood. It looked nice, but it wasn't a fire yet. There was a missing ingredient. It took that match to make it a fire. But a match all alone did not a fire make.
It was a big youth event. And, one of the top contemporary Christian bands was performing that night in a major arena, and I was part of the program, too. I offered to be a backup singer, but apparently they had that covered. I'm actually a good backup singer. I mean, when I sing, people back up! Actually, I was there to speak that night, and not to do comedy, obviously, and it's a good thing. And I had some Native young people from our summer team there with me. One of them was accompanying me as we tried to connect with some of the team at another entrance. We went through the tunnels that connect the backstage part of the arena, and everywhere we went, we met those big, beefy security guys. They'd look at my all-access security pass and they'd wave me on. But they weren't quite as friendly to the young team member who was with me. They stopped her and asked her if she had a pass. She didn't. None of the team members did because they weren't on the program. And that's where the magic words came in. They worked for the girl who was with me; they worked every time for the young people who joined me. I would just say, "She's with me. He's with me."
We were zipping along Interstate 80 one afternoon, heading home through Pennsylvania on this beautiful day. I was really enjoying the view as I drove, until that semi pulled out onto the highway in front of us. The truck was belching this heavy black smoke out of its smokestack. Immediately the car in front of us swung into the left lane to pass him. As he was passing, he suddenly turned on his windshield wipers, and we noticed that they immediately began smearing this oily film across his windshield.
It might be the dirtiest car I've ever driven. Someone asked me if I wanted to take a picture of our filthy chariot, and I said, "No, I don't want to remember him this way." We had spent weeks on drought-dry back roads. It was never a secret we were coming. You could see the dust long before you could see our car. It was, in the Bible's words, our own "pillar of cloud." Anywhere you rubbed against this car you picked up dirt from it. I wish more people had rubbed against it! Our car had been driven by several drivers during our summer outreach to reservations, and somewhere along the way, the rubber gasket around our trunk lid had been ripped out. One day I opened my trunk to get something, and I was greeted with a lovely blanket of chalky, white dust over everything. By the time we got to a city with a car wash, the automatic windows wouldn't even open. We wondered if their mechanism could be choked with dust. By the way, I don't usually open my windows at car washes. But anyway, we managed to find a car wash that used these words to advertise their services - high-powered, and they weren't lying. No, the water from their hoses could be used in building demolition I think or riot control! They had this soapy spray that seemed to penetrate every filthy crevice of my "dirt mobile." When we drove out, there was no trace anywhere of the dirt that had covered everything only moments before. Oh, P.S. - the windows were working, too!
Mount Luggage - that's what I remember about the day that our whole family was trapped at O'Hare Airport. We had taken our daughter to Chicago to get her to college. There was record rainfall that day. It was like nine and a half inches in a few hours, and O'Hare Airport literally had become an island. It was cut off from the rest of the world. It was like Camp O'Hare! And the overpass that people had to go through to get in was flooded with four feet of water. Well, needless to say, all the people were stranded there; everyone was running trying to get to a phone. This was pre cell phones. Every phone was taken; everybody was trying to find options, "How do I get out of here?" "How can I arrange for a ride if it ever does open up?" "Where can we stay tonight?"
Our daughter might still be sucking on her binky if we hadn't negotiated a deal. She was very attached to that pacifier, long after she really didn't need it anymore. Then my wife struck that bargain - the doll that our girl really wanted in exchange for her binky. From that day on, the binky was no more. I kept it in a drawer for my tough days. Not long ago, our son and daughter-in-law had a similar crossroads moment with our granddaughter. She could not imagine life without her binky, until Mommy and Daddy announced her Bye-Bye Binky Party. Did you ever go to one of those? On that day, she would surrender her binky and there would be a party in her honor with cake, decorations and even little presents. And suddenly, she didn't need her binky anymore!
Some years ago, my wife and I were at this couples' party at church, and they played a game that is sort of like that old TV show, "Let's Make a Deal." Everybody brought some "white elephant" gifts - they didn't bring white elephants but that's something you really wanted to get rid of. Of course, all these castaway gifts were nicely wrapped so no one knew what was inside. Then one person (maybe you've done this) has to go to the gift pile, pick one, and they open it. From that point on, each person has a choice when they go to the middle: take one of those unopened treasures, or give one of those unopened gifts in exchange for something that's already been opened that looks good to you - something that you know you want. Now, at this particular party, there was one particular object - this hand-carved lamp stand - that everybody wanted. It was one of the few things of value really. And it didn't matter what lengths a person went to in order to conceal that lamp stand, the next trader inevitably would remember where it was and they'd go for it. Actually, the dealing got pretty animated, in fact, I'd say almost dangerous at times. Everybody was up for grabs, except for one person - the woman who had opened the first gift. See, she remembered the rules of the game - that since the first person didn't get to make a trade, they get to make the last trade of the game. Through all the turmoil, she knew who was going home with that lamp stand all along!