I think we all do it at times. We walk past a store window, and we look at more than the merchandise. We look at our own reflection, or we glance in every convenient mirror. "How am I doing?" "How am I looking?" It's just natural - checking yourself out, want to impress, want to look good. It's natural to talk up our wins, our good stuff. And then I read these show-stopping words in the Bible. They challenge our whole image-driven "How do I look" way of living. Actually I think I understand these words now in a way I could not have only months ago.
If it's about the Revolutionary War, I'll probably try to go there. My poor family has been dragged to more historical houses, battlefields, and Colonial restorations. Fortunately, we lived in the town where George Washington actually had his headquarters at one point during the War. So when they had a special militia re-enactment, we went to see it. But it was more than just muskets and bayonets. They had Colonial craftsmen there, too. Including the old blacksmith. He was there in the barn, next to his blazing fire. When I walked in, he was working on these big iron nails - which my wife thought would look nice as hooks and hangers on our mantle at home. They're still there. It was intriguing to watch the blacksmith do his work. Actually, he took a shapeless piece of iron, he heated it in that fire until it was red hot - and it was soft enough to shape - and then he hammered it into something that hunk of metal had never been before - something useful. I know. They're on our mantle, remember?
Full disclosure here. I'm not the guy you want to call when you need a guy to do a job with a hammer. Okay. But look, I do know the fundamentals. A hammer can be used to build something, right? Or to tear it down. Either way, what a hammer hits is not going to stay the same. Life's hammers are like that: Losing your job, your health, the one you love most, as I did recently. Tragedy. Divorce. Betrayal by that person you trusted. Family heartbreak. Those are hammers! And maybe one of those has hit you recently. Or it maybe hit a long time ago but its effects are still there today. And whatever the hammer hits can't possibly stay the same. The only question is whether the blows will build you or tear you down. But the hammer doesn't decide that. We do.
My friend, Tom, has a taste for some of the beautiful things in life like great food for example. In fact he's a wonderful chef. I think I'm still wearing some of his culinary creations on my body. Tom also really appreciates nature including plants. I have been fascinated to hear him tell of some of the incredible creations of God that live in that world of plants and flowers that I don't know much about. The last time we saw him, he told us about a flower called the Night Blooming Cyrus which he said he's only seen bloom once. That's because they don't do much when folks are awake. In fact they only bloom for 2 hours a day, he said, and that's from midnight till' 2 A.M. But for those who stay up late or set their alarm there is the splendor of a richly colored flower that measures about six inches in bloom. It's beautiful late at night.
My plane had left the gate at O'Hare Airport in Chicago and I thought we were on our way. Wrong. First, they routed us across the backside of the airport-I think that might have been in Wisconsin actually. Then, after a slow, meandering tour of that huge airport, we finally ended up in a long line of aircraft waiting to take off. Well, after a while, I get a little impatient. That's OK. What's important is that the pilot was not getting impatient. We don't want him to go until the tower says it's OK. You see, he knows you don't take off until you've gotten clearance from the tower-no matter how long you have to wait.
Waking up early most mornings is not an option for me. If I oversleep, it means missing a plane or a speaking commitment or radio broadcasts or some deadline or some important meeting. In other words, my clock radio had better work...and it does. Even on the days when many other clock radios might not. Because the power went out during the night, let's say. There have been mornings when I have been awakened by my clock radio-looked over at the other one in the room and seen it blinking at me some time when it was the middle of the night. See, that clock was plugged into the wall and sometime during the night the external power supply had failed. Good thing I wasn't depending on that one! But mine always comes through-because it's powered by batteries! You see, what keeps it going is inside!
First, the forsythia exploded-those little yellow flowers that announce to our area where we were living that spring was finally springing. Then the dogwood explosion detonated. It was really hard to be in a bad mood when those beautiful pink and white blossoms suddenly appeared everywhere. Happens probably where you live too, maybe just at different times. Actually, the word "suddenly" needs a little work. The coming of the forsythia and the dogwood, and all the other stars of the Spring Extravaganza; they've been getting ready to happen for a long time. We couldn't see it, but there's been this invisible process of nourishing and growth, and those nubby little buds start to peek out. And then, one day you start down the street and it's blazing with color that wasn't even there the day before. But sudden? Not really.
Zero visibility and I was driving in it. All I could think of was those disturbing images of fifty vehicles smooshed in some fog-caused pileup. Thankfully, I made it. But it is scary driving when you have no idea what's ahead. Which pretty much describes how a lot of folks feel about the times we're living in right now. I mean, as Bob Dylan said, "the times, they are a changing." We're just not sure where all the road's going.
It's pretty funny how far some advertisers will go to convince you that you should buy their product. Years ago, I remember there were some Samsonite luggage commercials. They had a suitcase in the gorilla cage, taking every form of abuse a gorilla could give it. And then there was the one where they threw it out of a plane and it survived. But the pioneers of this kind of "hammer it to prove it" advertising were the makers of Timex watches. Their motto was really hard to forget, "takes a lickin', keeps on tickin'." I don't remember all the ways they beat up on their watches, but it seems to me that they attached one to a ski boat and one to the underside of a truck that was bouncing along a bumpy road. They gave it all kinds of hammering that proved the quality of their product.
Okay, imagine a train traveling about 1,000 miles and the passengers are almost all teenagers! I was one of them. You say, "You mean they had trains back then?" (Leave me alone!) Yes, they had just been invented. Thousands of us were on our way to this national youth convention on specially chartered trains. And don't you wish you could be a chaperone for something like that? (Oh, a dream come true!) Well, our train was traveling all night, and I decided I wanted to beat the morning rush in the bathroom so I got my suitcase and I started making my way through one car after another to get to the one that had a men's room in it. Unfortunately, most of the other people on the train were sleeping in every conceivable position, including various body parts hanging out in the aisle. Here's the picture: dark railroad cars, boy moving down the aisle with a big suitcase in his hand, trying to keep his balance on a speeding train, and bodies hanging out into the same aisle. You get it? Bonk! Clunk! Uhh! Many unsuspecting sleepers had a rude awakening that night and I was very unpopular, and obviously very un-smart. Unfortunately, the problem? My baggage kept hitting other people!