Years ago, not long after the Gulf War actually, an Air Force chaplain planted this mental picture in my head. It's still there! He told me what he considered to be the ultimate example of loneliness. The chaplain said, "To me, lonely is a fighter pilot in his F-16, on a night mission over enemy territory." The only light is this eerie glow from his instrument panel - and his instruments indicate that his plane has just been, as they say, "painted" as a target for, in this case, an Iraqi missile. The only sound he heard in that ultimately lonely moment was a song playing in his headset - "God Bless the USA."
I had been going through this basement closet. I found some buried treasure. Actually, it was a little suitcase filled with the love letters that my wife and I had exchanged over two years of our courtship and engagement - and no you can't see them. It was pretty moving for me to read them again after all these years. As I relived our early romance through those letters, I had an idea, why not put some of these in a scrapbook and give them as a gift to my wife. Small problem: how am I going to do this and keep it a surprise? I actually set up a partition in the back half of our basement. I moved some big furniture around to further obstruct the view, and I made myself a secret "No Trespassing" workshop! Finally, one day I presented to my Honey this book entitled "Chronicles of a Lifetime Love." She had no idea what I'd been working on for her, because, see, I did all the work on it out of her sight!
We were driving with some of our young Native American friends in Arizona and we were returning from a little sightseeing outing. And even though men never get lost, right? Well, the man driving did. As we were debating which way to go to get back, one of our Indian passengers described exactly how we had traveled to this area and exactly how we could get back. We listened, we tried it, and we weren't lost anymore! Now maybe it's just been my experience, and sometimes I even joke about it with my Native friends - Native Americans just don't seem to get lost! I've tried to figure this out. Maybe it's just instinct, but over and over I've noticed something. My Native friends pay very close attention to where they're going. Seldom do they have to travel there twice to know where they're going. Now, they have taught me a very valuable lesson - the way to know your way is to pay close attention to where you've been!
The first hurricane I was in made me think of the Three Little Pigs story. It also made me think of the wolf, "I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house down." We were on vacation with our family at the time, and the hurricane was moving into where we were on the coast. We moved downstairs from our upstairs bedroom. We listened to the local station go off air because the water was coming into the station. We tried to sleep but the wind was howling and the rain was pummeling the house. Well the next morning we went out and we surveyed what had happened. The power was out. The trees and wires were down. There was like wreckage everywhere. We had to actually wash and flush using the water that we had wisely stored in the bathtub before the hurricane hit. We ate by candlelight. We changed all our plans, but we were safe. See the storm had beaten up everything around us and it sure affected our lifestyle. But the things that really mattered - they were safe.
This is going to come as a big surprise to you, but I like to talk. It was a blow, then, when this throat doctor told me some years ago I had to stop talking for three weeks! That was a long time ago but my memory is still fresh on this. I had what was known as a growth on one of my vocal cords, and he said it could do serious damage to the other vocal cord. His prescription: total voice rest! Ahhh!!! I argued with him about all the appointments and speaking engagements I had, and he told me the consequences of not stopping. So, I stopped. Now, a lot of my friends got a good laugh out of Ron not being able to talk. In fact, they loved my little Donald Duck magic slate that I carried around. It helped me communicate. But there was one person who didn't laugh, and that was my wife. It was tough on her because she had to be my voice for so many people. Okay, it had been two weeks since I had spoken a word. My wife and I were in bed, we turned off the light, and suddenly she was startled by a sound next to her. It was me, breaking that long silence. Just long enough to say three little words, "I love you." And then back to silence for one more week. But those three little words, that sounded so loud after so much silence, made her happy enough to cry.
We get our share of storms where we live, and we've got our share of trees. So, you can probably figure out the rest. After almost every storm, I make the rounds in the yard, and I get to pick up the souvenirs the storm left behind. I haul all those downed branches to my special brush pile place even if they've still got leaves on them. Look, even if I am a city boy, I know there's no use planting those branches in the ground and hoping they'll grow more leaves. In fact, those leaves they have are soon going to fall off. As soon as the branch gets separated from the tree, it starts dying.
I arrived at our office one morning and had a little scratch on my forehead. It was pretty obvious, and most people didn't mention it. They were really nice to me. But then there are those who - like me, unfortunately - well, they hate to miss an opportunity to "bust" someone, especially me. So, of course, I heard more than once that day, "Oh, did your wife scratch you?" My poor wife took the blame. And, of course, I kiddingly went along saying, "Oh, sometimes it's the only way to keep me in line" which people thought very believable. Now here's the truth: somehow, I just managed to scratch myself in my sleep. I'm not sure what I was dreaming about. But it was all my doing.
Some years ago, our ministry's headquarters was under construction, progressed from stage to stage. And I enjoyed walking through the halls and the rooms to see the progress. Of course, you had to look past a lot of mess and clutter, and you had to use your imagination to see what it was eventually going to look like. But the point at which I really started to realize what God is doing is when I climbed this little ladder to the catwalk that encircled the building above all the rooms below. Before the ceiling goes in, you can just walk along that catwalk and get the big picture of how far things have really progressed and the scope of what God's doing here. There's a view from up there that really provides an exciting perspective. It's a lot more inspiring than when you're just standing in one of the rooms down below.
Eight wedding showers in a month! Six hundred guests scheduled to be at the wedding where 14 bridesmaids and 14 groomsmen would attend the bride and groom. Four days before the wedding, the bride went missing after she went out for a jog. The American news channels were dominated by the all-out search and the investigation into the case of the vanishing bride, and then we learned what happened. The bride turned up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, claiming she had been kidnapped - a story which she later changed to tell the real story of what happened. She said that the stress leading up to her wedding had given her cold feet, and she just kept running with those cold feet. In retrospect, I'm sure folks must be saying, "Girl, why didn't you just tell someone what you were feeling?" Instead she ran from her family, her community, her wedding, and even from the truth. Tens of thousands of dollars and countless man-hours were spent looking for her. Now she faced the additional stress of negative national notoriety and even the possibility of legal or financial penalties. Pretty simple here: running solved nothing. It never does.
Lake Cumberland is a nice place to go in central Kentucky. It's not a nice place to have come to you. That's what the Army Corps of Engineers has been concerned about. The Wolf Creek Dam holds back millions of gallons of water from Nashville and other communities along the Cumberland River. Well the Army engineers had expressed some growing concerns about a possible dam break. They said a break could kill many residents and it could cause over three billion dollars in damage. A Corps spokesman said that the failure of the dam wasn't imminent at that time but that evacuation plans would be a good idea. So they decided they would lower the water level in the lake and try to fortify the dam, because they said that dam was all that stands between a lot of lives and a major disaster.