Maybe it was the dumb voices I did. But the kids used to love it when I read "Winnie the Pooh" to them. Tigger with his irrepressible "hoo-hoo!" bouncing everywhere. And Eeyore with his head down and his ever-present gloom. I'd rather be Tigger than Eeyore maybe without the bouncing. I mean, I want to be the one to leave sunshine in the room, not storm clouds.
One summer our staff had a picnic at the home of one of our volunteers. And this volunteer has a swimming pool. Actually a few people came prepared to go in the pool that day, but I knew one of them would be our son-in-law. He was there only minutes before he was in his swim trunks and diving in. What I didn't expect was who was in the pool with him – our one-year-old grandson. He looked so small in that big pool. But he was loving the water and floating along fearlessly. Not because he could swim, of course. Look, he was advanced – of course, our grandson, but not that advanced. No, his daddy had him sitting in his own personal inner tube, so he had no trouble staying afloat.
Missionary pilots are some of my personal heroes-especially since the incredible job they did moving our Native American team across Alaska some years ago. Often there really wasn't much of a runway to land on or good weather to fly in, but they always got us there safely. On one flight, I was in the co-pilot seat (yeah, of all things) in a little six-seater aircraft, and our pilot, Gary, was flying us to a Yukon River village through some low visibility, low ceilings-just generally lousy weather. And as we neared our destination, he said, "I hate this part. We're in the dead zone." "Dead zone" isn't exactly what I want to hear from a pilot when I'm flying with him, so I asked Gary what he meant by that. He described that part of a flight where you cannot communicate with the tower or with any other aircraft. You're kind of all alone. It doesn't last long, he explained, but if you're in trouble or you're going down, nobody knows. It's a lonely stretch. Well, after a couple more minutes, Gary broke into a big smile and he said, "Good. We're back." I smiled, too.
Florida has many beautiful things about it – great beaches, great theme parks, and great weather. But to be perfectly honest, it's not one of the most exciting states just to drive across. I mean, it's like terminal flatness sort of. You know, like Illinois where I grew up. There's nothing wrong with the South Florida landscape that a nice mountain or a hill wouldn't help. Well, in West Palm Beach there is one. A hill, that is. It actually rises to the breathtaking height of 55' above sea level.
I have some great memories of ministering in South Africa some years ago. Got to reach some lost young people and their parents, and train youth leaders to reach young people as well. My schedule was really intense, but our Field Director and I managed to sneak away for a couple of hours in a wild game park. And the Lord of all those African creatures was really good to us, because He sent us zebras and rhinos and hippos, and many more of God's African best.
Our daughter was really in a hurry to get home that night in February, and her aunt wasn't. Her aunt had taken her shopping and was taking her time. One more thing to buy, one more stop, and one more store. By the time our daughter finally got home, she was pretty frustrated. She sort of sputtered as she walked in the front door, only to hear 25 of her best friends shout, "Surprise!" It was her birthday, and yes, it was a surprise! After some oxygen and smelling salts, she began to realize the reason for all those delays. It was all time needed to get her surprise ready. It was worth the wait.
When you drive into Missouri and Arkansas, you are entering cave country. And the tourist signs prove it...believe me. You could spend an entire vacation just touring all the caverns, using your imagination to see how that stalagmite looks like Snoopy or an Indian chief. As we were roaring down the Interstate one very chilly day, we saw this sign that said, "Fantastic Caverns – a warm 60 degrees." In winter, 60 sounds pretty warm. In summer, 60 sounds pretty cool. So, seasons change and the temperatures change, the cave never does.
Our son-in-law is pretty much a natural when it comes to sports. And if there's something he hasn't done before, he's anxious to give it a try. I was there for the first time he tried to jet-ski. You've probably seen those little water machines that look like a baby snowmobile. They're a lot of fun, but it takes some skill to keep it balanced. He handled it pretty well for a while, but it was probably inevitable that he would eventually fall off on his first ride. Of course, the jet-ski kept going-and I expected it to take off without him. But instead, that jet-ski is designed to start going in a circle near you-and it circles for you until you can get back on. It's nice to know it will be there when you fall off.
The idea of building a Headquarters as a base for our ministry's mission sounded exciting – and overwhelming. It took amazing financial miracles and the help of people who know a lot more than I do. I did some building with Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs when I was little, but apparently that experience did not prepare me adequately for the first real building project of my life. An architect drew the blueprint for what we needed the Headquarters to be, and that was great. But there I stood with this very big, very detailed drawing – having no idea of where to start with what was on that paper. Thank God for the contractor that He brought into our lives! He knew what to do!
He's a baseball legend. Cal Ripken, Jr. played all 21 years of his Major League career with the hometown Baltimore Orioles. He holds several defensive records and he is only one of seven players who got 400 home runs and 3,000 hits. But as the sportswriters reflected on his career when he retired, what many considered his most significant achievement was that for 16 straight years he played in every single game, setting the all-time record of 2,632 consecutive games played. When the ill will from the 1994 players' strike was still in the air, he tied and passed Lou Gehrig's long-standing record for consecutive games played. The fans cheered loud and long. As one magazine said, "This wasn't Joe DiMaggio hitting in 56 straight games or Hank Aaron's clubbing 755 homers. This was a record that required a talent all mere mortals could display – faithfully showing up for work every day."