I don't talk about it much, because I don't want people putting me on a pedestal or asking for autographs. But the fact is I was the (Are you ready for this? Drum roll...) the champion of our county's 8th grade spelling bee. Yep, I even got a trophy. That's right.
I never had a sister when I was growing up, but my sons did. Our daughter is the oldest, and her two brothers each came at about two year intervals after that. As I watched their relationship over the years, it was interesting to see what I had missed: a lot of kidding around, some exciting disagreements, some hugs, some advice, some conflict, but a lot of loyalty. One thing was always really clear, say between our daughter and her older brother. No one had better do his sister wrong. He was always her personal "look-out-forer." Is that a word? And until our son-in-law came along, no guy had ever been good enough to get her brother's "thumbs up." Two years younger, he was always her protector. You know if you're a sister, it's nice to have a brother like that.
I'm having sort of flashbacks of some very special Easters past; often at a sunrise service. Like the Easter in Miami, with the sun rising over Biscayne Bay as I spoke about Jesus rising from the dead. Or celebrating Jesus with Native Americans in a public park. And the... Oh, yeah, there was the one on the mountaintop near New York City.
The land is flat around Joplin, Missouri. And then after the great tornado that hit there, much of the town was leveled by that F-5. It was just heartbreaking devastation as far as the eye could see. But you know what? In the midst of all that devastation, there was still one thing still standing. A reporter commented on it as the camera scanned across this sea of wreckage, and you couldn't miss it. It was a cross, and his words went right to my heart, "The church is gone, but the cross is still standing."
When our daughter was just a baby we had a pretty small house where you could look in all the rooms from the kitchen. During the summer we had this big old exhaust fan on the floor in the kitchen, which was really the only way to suck some air through the house. Well, our daughter thought this fan was kind of intriguing, she thought it would be neat to explore. I walked into the kitchen one day and here she is toddling toward that fan with her hand fully extended. She wanted to put her fingers in the fan! Guess what? I didn't say, "Oh go ahead honey, I love you." No, I said, "No!" She tried again a few minutes later. She really wanted to do this. So I kind of spatted her on the bottom and said, "No, no! Don't do that." Now if I tried to explain it to this little toddler, she wouldn't have understood at all. I just had to stop her. Can't you imagine what she would have said, if she could've said, "Haven't you heard of love? If you love me, you'll let me do what I really want to do." No, not in this case. Today I think she's pretty glad that I didn't think that was love.
I know you've experienced it. Let's call it customer frustration. Maybe it's all about a bill you think there's a mistake on, or a problem with your phone or some other service, or maybe it's a store policy that seems like it's got you going in circles just trying to get an answer. You've talked yourself blue in the face, trying to get some resolution from this salesperson or this customer rep. Then it dawns on you...this person doesn't have any authority to make any difference in this situation. They're just reading from the company script. So what do you do? You ask for the boss, the manager, the owner. That's where I usually get an answer, because they've got the authority to do something!
My son really likes to read. In fact, he had this spot by his office window where he liked to sit in the morning and read as the sunshine came streaming in. The one book he read there every morning was his Bible. He wanted to make sure that he got his time with Jesus right at the top of the day. He still does that. But this particular day was particularly unforgettable because as he opened his eyes from praying, there was a little chair next to his big chair and our then two-year-old granddaughter (precious girl) was there reading (well, excuse me, she was reading as much as a two-year-old can) a book. It was her toddler's Bible. Oh yeah, and next to her was one melted daddy all over the floor.
We had rented this nice cabin in the mountains, and we really didn't want to leave it much. The view across the valley was like a painting. It would change as the sun changed and the weather changed; all kinds of moods, you know, like you see in the mountains.
Years ago there was a cowboy hero, and a young boy who thought he was a big deal. The boy was me. And my parents bought me this plate with my hero's picture on it and an inscription that said, "That a boy! You cleaned your plate." I wanted his approval very much, so I just kept cleaning my plate...and filling it so I could clean it again. By the time I was in high school, I weighed 210 pounds. And whose fault was it that I was so heavy? I've told many people - it was the fault of that cowboy hero, of course. Well, at least I wish I could have blamed him.
They were very exciting years; those days when God launched our radio outreach to young people. The Lord used that youth program to present Jesus to young people in almost 400 areas of this country and about 60 countries of the world. And the early ones; the first ones we did, they were especially exciting because it was like a new kind of Christian program in the country. We were living in New Jersey. The program originated from Chicago, and it was neat to have two or three children with me for those pioneer broadcasts. We kind of shared the excitement.