Columnist Bob Greene told a story that touched my heart. It's about a newspaperman in a small Midwestern town and the call he got from a school teacher. She wanted to tell him about something that had happened to a child on the playground. He was braced for bad news. Well, it wasn't. During a lunch break, most of the 8th graders were gathered in groups, talking and playing. This one boy - a student who actually suffered from severe physical disabilities and was new to the school - was off by himself as usual. He was, like, painfully shy.
It's hard to find any "good news" in the bad news of being diagnosed with cancer. But Ellen did, and she told me about it after a recent seminar I had in her area. I'm really excited about how God uses the A Life That Matters book and training to help everyday believers help people they know be in heaven with them. Ellen told me she'd read the book about that when it came out, but she didn't really look for or see many opportunities to tell people the good news about Jesus...until she got cancer.
The plane bound for Newark Airport was full. All those passengers are waiting for their suitcase now to arrive on the baggage carousel along with passengers from a couple of other flights. And to think people pay to go to the zoo! Man, there are times when that crowd of people gets pretty big and we're all crammed together in an area that can get pretty wall-to-wall. I remember when the claustrophobia got worse than ever. See, they had put up a wall that reduced the already limited space. You could get pretty steamed about it if you didn't realize the wall was there to cover up some construction that was in progress. See, they were improving and enlarging that whole area! Now how do they make us feel good about this crunch in the meantime? They put up a sign on that construction wall and it seemed to do the job. Look, I didn't forget it did I? It said this, "Thanks for your patience. We are getting rid of yesterday so we can get ready for tomorrow."
Some of our most memorable vacation moments as a family have been spent on the beautiful Outer Banks of North Carolina. It hasn't always been beautiful for ships that were navigating those treacherous shoals that are off the shores of the Outer Banks. In fact, it's estimated that over 2,000 ships have gone down there over those centuries. But a lot more lives could have been lost there if it hadn't been for the Cape Hatteras Light, one of the most famous lighthouses in America. Its octagonal tower rises massively above the beach and the sand hills, and it's been the guiding light that kept many ships from going aground. It's stood there for nearly two centuries. Imagine the storms that she's weathered, including more than a hundred hurricanes! Storms that blew away so many other structures, but the lighthouse still stands.
We had spent a couple of days at the home of a friend at the New Jersey Shore, just a block away from the Atlantic Ocean. We arrived at night as this powerful storm started hitting our area. So we went to sleep with the loud lullaby of winds that roared around our room and pounded the rain against the windows like pellets. The next morning, the ocean was something to see. Crashing waves, a heaving tide, this wild and angry look, and all kinds of junk thrown onto the beach by all that turbulence.
My friend, Mike, had just started up his pickup truck when the trouble started. He was taking the truck out for a test drive for some people who had just bought it. And as he backed it out of the new owner's garage, it suddenly started sputtering and stalling. He couldn't keep it running no matter what he tried. He got to a phone and called the old owner and said, "What's the deal with this truck you just sold?" Well, the man who sold it is an honorable man, and he was really distressed about this suddenly dysfunctional truck. Then suddenly he asked Mike, "Did you happen to mess with the radio at all?" Yes, he had. The previous owner told Mike to go check these two switches that are right next to the radio. See, this truck has a wonderful feature, especially for the country roads that it travels so much. It has a reserve gas tank. Now, Mike had unknowingly turned off Tank 2, which was full of gas, and turned on Tank 1, which was totally empty. But the good news is that as soon as he switched from the empty tank to the reserve tank, Mr. Pickup Truck ran and ran and ran.
Once upon a time, a father and mother bird decided to build a nest in the vent in our kitchen range exhaust fan. We were on vacation, and the nest got so huge it made the fan unworkable. We learned it was there as we saw spiders hanging down from the hood over the stove. We really didn't want to kill a nest full of babies. By the way, we couldn't see them. No, we could just hear them when they were hungry.
Twenty-three seconds. It takes you longer than that to eat a slice of pizza, or at least it should. It takes me about that long just to say three or four sentences. Now, a short TV commercial is longer than that. But every 23 seconds, something absolutely amazing happens inside you. Your blood pumps through your body during that time, delivers oxygen and nutrients to all your cells, and carries away the impurities from your cells and starts back through again in 23 seconds. Mind-blowing! That's what it takes to keep you going. You've got to have that oxygen delivered regularly. You've got to have your cell garbage taken out regularly, and your blood gets it done.
My friend was used to handling heavy equipment, but he wasn't used to what happened that particular day. He had his trailer hitched to his dump truck. Now, you've got to kind of picture this: He was driving his backhoe onto the trailer. One little problem - guess it might be a physics problem. As the weight of my friend and his backhoe pressed on the back of the trailer, the rear wheels of the dump truck were suddenly lifted up into the air, which means there were no brakes on a downhill slope yet! So try to picture this: this man riding on a backhoe which is riding on a trailer, which is hitched to a truck that is heading straight downhill out-of-control. I said, "Man, what did you say?" His answer was pretty simple, "Oh no! Oh no!!" I guess he had absolutely no control. So how did he live to tell about it? Well, he threw that backhoe in reverse and he backed off as fast as he could. Balance was restored and the truck and the trailer - well, they jackknifed. And honestly I am not making any of this up!
Because of my strong love for Native Americans, I was especially interested in a story author Leonard Sweet told in a book of his. It's about a rite of passage that one tribe had for its boys when they turned 13. On that birthday, a warrior blindfolded the boy and took him several miles from camp. Then the warrior took off the blindfold and left this young teenager in this dark, dense forest. The young man was expected to stay there for the night and fend for himself. When it got dark, it got really dark. The trees were so dense he couldn't see the moon, he couldn't see the stars. Oh, but he could sure hear those eerie sounds of the wind, the howls of the wild animals nearby, and the rustling of the leaves that sounded like an approaching enemy. For most boys, it was a night without sleep. And then the dawn began to break. And then the young man could see the forest as it really was; the flowers were blooming, the majestic trees swaying in the wind, and the wildlife scurrying around for food. And then, the biggest surprise of all. The boy would see an imposing male figure, standing in the woods only a few yards away. He'd be startled at first, until he recognized the man. Unbeknownst to this frightened young warrior, his father had been there the whole time, ready to protect his son against anything that might harm him.