First, our kids couldn't feed themselves. Then they slowly began to learn to do it themselves. Right? Yeah. And then they got really good at it. But in those very early days of teaching them to feed themselves, we didn't just hand them this big slab of meat to eat and say, "Go for it kid." Every parent knows the drill: you cut the big piece into bite-size chunks so it's manageable. I got so used to doing it, it was kind of embarrassing when I'd got out to lunch with a businessman and I started cutting up his meat up for him!
Helen Roseveare was a veteran missionary, and I heard a true story from her life and it really touched me. And it reminded me of why I can face some huge needs with perfect peace. I thought it would be an encouragement to you today, too. Maybe you need this. Helen was a medical missionary in Zaire, and she told about the night she had tried to save a mother in the labor ward. And those efforts did not succeed. The mother died, left the missionaries with a crying two-year-old daughter and this tiny, premature baby. Now, they didn't have an incubator. They didn't have electricity to run an incubator, and they didn't have any special feeding facilities. And even though they lived on the equator where the nights got pretty chilly. So they wrapped the baby in cotton wool, put him in a box then, and they stoked up a fire. What they really needed was a good, old fashioned hot water bottle for the tiny newborn, but they discovered that the last one they had was burst and there was no way to get one. So they put the baby as near the fire as they could safely and they hoped it would be enough. But it was a touch-and-go fight for that little life. And then came the little girl's prayer.
I've never been in a storm at sea and that's fine! I've heard the stories. You remember the ship, some years ago, that was making this transatlantic voyage from Liverpool to New York. One night, at a time when most of the passengers were asleep, the ship was hit by this "mega" Atlantic storm. The wind and the waves were so violent at one point they actually tipped the ship almost on its side, and down below, the passengers were thrown out of their beds. They're freaking out! I mean, this is a rude awakening! Now in this one cabin, a little girl was thrown out of her bed like everybody else and her mother was already awake from the intensity of the storm. But there was one thing different about this particular passenger. See, her daddy was the captain! While she was all bleary eyed, she asked her mom the only thing she really wanted to know about the situation, "Is daddy on deck?" Her mom said, "Well yes he is, honey." The little girl's response was right to the point, "Then I'm going back to bed."
Our friends live in a rugged and majestic area really in the American West. They call it "Big Sky Country" out there. Yeah, that's right! Their house has been there for a long, long time - long before many other people settled where they are. Sitting in their living room, you can't help but admire these beautiful old logs in the walls. But for years, no one ever saw those logs. Over the years, they were covered by first one layer of material, then another, then another. Our friends actually had to strip away five layers of stuff: plaster, sheet rock, even manure...layers that were covering up the original beauty of this house.
Like most families, Christmastime for us has always been a season of secrets, mysteries and anticipation. And sometimes even a little frustration. Like the year my wife and I decided to build a dollhouse for our daughter and then another year we built a general store for our son. We closed off the basement and we set up our workshop. That sign on the basement door said, "Closed - Christmas Workshop." But, of course, the kids could hear all the construction sounds downstairs, it was driving them nuts! They begged us to tell them what we were working on. But that, of course, would have ruined everything. Even though it left them wondering, we were building something really nice for them. They just couldn't see it until it was done.
I was scheduled to speak at a winter retreat in Pennsylvania and I had to drive from New Jersey, and that day winter decided that it was time to do some serious wintering like heavy snow. And it just kept coming! I knew this would be an exciting drive. Well, actually, it turned out to be much easier than I expected. I got out into this mess on Interstate 80 and I had really low visibility, I had blinding snow, and the road was filling up quickly. Of course I was muttering, "Why couldn't they cancel this retreat?" Then I thought of a better idea than complaining. How about trying praying? What an idea! And wouldn't you know, that's when I saw the snowplow in front of me. Well, I got my little car right in behind Mr. Snowplow and I traveled on a clear road most of the way to the retreat! I just drove where the snowplow had already been! That way you're a lot less likely to end up in the ditch!
It's one of the ugly words of our time - hostage. I mean, look, we've all seen our share of hostage situations on the news. Right? Some right here in the United States. When someone has taken a hostage or several hostages, the first thing they do is bring in the hostage negotiating team and the police do their very best to use their psychology and their human relations to talk that person, of course, into releasing their hostages.
Little Jessica became America's child that day she fell down that narrow shaft in a backyard in Texas. Here was a toddler, wedged nearly upside down, in a shaft far too narrow for any man to navigate, and unable to help herself in any way. It didn't take long for the press to descend on that little hole in the ground to cover this valiant effort to try to save little Jessica's life. Pretty soon countless people across the country and around the world, including me, were rooting and praying for her life. I was one of them. At first, there appeared to be no way out of this deadly situation, but the rescuers weren't about to give up. No, they began to build a wider shaft parallel to the one Jessica was trapped in. She'd been in there for nearly three days when a rescuer finally went down that new shaft and through the tunnel they had dug to Jessica. Minutes later – a scene many of us will never forget. In the glare of the press's massive lights, a battered but breathing little girl emerged from that hole with her arms tightly wrapped around her rescuer.
Every World Series has its memorable moments, but the 1989 World Series will always have a distinctive claim to fame. The game was being played in Candlestick Park in San Francisco. And you might remember, in the third inning, the ground suddenly started shaking - an earthquake hit the stadium! People began to flee, the players quickly left the field, and many suddenly only cared about one thing - whether the people they loved were safe. The Giants catcher, Terry Kennedy, was living his dream that day. He was playing in the World Series. But suddenly, in one redefining moment, that changed. When a sportscaster inquired about his reaction to the quake, that catcher summed it up pretty well. He said, "Sure does change your priorities, doesn't it?"
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.