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."
My wife and I were traveling with our daughter and son-in-law and our two dynamite, at that time, little grandsons. We were in adjoining motel rooms for a couple of days – and that's what occasioned our son-in-law's amusing comparison of our rooms. See, our rooms were basically identical – when we moved in. We moved our stuff into our room. They moved in themselves, their children, their children's world, and some "office on the road" stuff. Well, on our second day, our son-in-law plopped down in a chair in our room and he made this bemused observation, "You know, your room is three times bigger than our room!" Not true. See, our room was the same size. It was just one-third as crowded!
In my early days of trying to figure out the world of computers, my friends would shake their heads. Sometimes they still do today, because I guess I could be a special challenge in the techy stuff. I mean, in the early days, someone saw me turning off my computer without going through all the steps you're supposed to. I didn't know until they told me that day. Probably my friend was shaking their head as they watched me. He showed me how to bring up on my screen an option called "shutdown". When you activate the shutdown mode, the computer displays a special shutdown screen that stays on while the internal shutdown work is going on. Then, suddenly, your computer is off. Well, when I asked my technically normal friend what shutdown mode was, he gave me a simple answer, knowing my techno-dork limitations. He said, "Your computer is cleaning out a lot of junk that's accumulated in there; any unfinished business from whatever commands it's been given since the last shutdown." Oh, that sounds good to me. Now I never end what I'm doing without going through shutdown mode. Neither should you.
I don't know if you've ever driven across the United States, but it's something you want to think twice about. I mean, it's a long haul. How about riding a bicycle across the United States? That's what my friend Scott did when he was a college student with a group called Wandering Wheels. That's a lot of wandering! Scott said he was excited about the idea until the day the leaders displayed a map of the whole country on the side of their chuck wagon. It looked, in a word, impossible. But they started on Mission Impossible anyway. Each day, they'd get up and just start riding again. "So he took it a day at a time, then?" No. Scott said when the riding really got tough and his legs were just about to go on strike, he would just aim for that next telephone pole. And pretty soon, he said, that huge map got conquered, one telephone pole at a time.
When our boys were little, did they work ahead on their homework? No! On their chores? Silly question. On their Christmas lists? Oh yeah! For some strange reason they were able to do some serious advance planning when it came to what they wanted for Christmas. I could expect their carefully prepared Christmas list by Thanksgiving at the latest. Their wishes would be listed in priority order, with what they called "the big one" circled and starred in big print at the top. They didn't want me to miss it. For our oldest son one year, it was this spaceship that was the toy of the year, the toy that parents fight over to get the last one in the toy store. You know? Well, I worked ahead that year. Right around Thanksgiving, I went out and bought that ship before toy wars began at the store. I tucked it away safely in my closet. Now my son reminded me of that thing over and over again during December, maybe nagged would be a more accurate verb. He kept on asking, and that was fine. Of course, I had granted his request as soon as he asked the first time. I just waited till the appropriate time to give it to him.