It was a perfect winter scene: father and son sledding down a hill, on a beautiful new snowfall, together on one sled. My son was laughing as we reached the bottom. We'd had a great run down the hill, and suddenly I shook up that happy little feeling. I just suddenly shouted, "Jump!" and he did. He rolled right off the sled. I did too. He didn't ask why, he just jumped.
It was the only kind of day they have at O'Hare Airport - busy. It was August, and I was one of the thousands of passengers there who had plans and schedules, things we had to do, places we had to be. But, as far as I know, none of us made it. No, Chicago had a record-breaking storm that day - over nine inches of rain. There was massive flooding, in fact so much that the airport was literally flooded closed. That created an interesting dynamic with no one able to come in or go out. It was sort of like Camp O'Hare all of a sudden. Many of us spent the day trying to find either a way out, or a phone to call out, or a place to spend the night. It was before cell phones, and it was a few years ago and that's why we didn't have all the technology to contact somebody. Virtually no one did what he or she had planned to do that day. Oh no! Our plans didn't go through all because of one storm! The rich, the poor, the powerful, the famous, the unknown, the young, the old - didn't matter. Suddenly your destiny was out of your control. You know what? Storms will do that to you.
We had heard so much about the Stealth bomber, and it comes under the radar at night, you know, virtually invisible to ground defenses. So, some years ago, we were shocked when we heard that one of those had been downed during NATO's bombing of Serbia. We saw the burning plane wreckage on Serb TV, but there was no mention of the pilot. Well, my wife and I stopped as soon as we heard the news and we prayed for the safety of that pilot wherever he was. And as it turned out, our military launched an all-out search for him as soon as they learned his plane was down. In fact, their rescue tactics are so sophisticated no one really told the whole story of how they went about it. But I was impressed, not to mention all the other pilots who were risking their lives every day over Serbia...at how they were committed to the rescue, whatever it took. Boy, you know, the pilot knew it. And they brought him out!
We went on this guided tour of this large cave near us. You walk through these winding and really narrow passageways and you admire the wonders that God has created from stalagmites, stalactites, and underground rivers. We entered this one large chamber, and the guide turned on the light and directed our eyes to this high vaulted like cathedral ceiling. You can probably guess what animals we saw hanging up there - bats, lots of bats. The guide told us that the early explorers of this cave had found large quantities of what she called bat guano. If you don't know what that is, never mind. It's gross, that's what it is. But they made lots of money selling that stuff. Really? Who would buy it? I mean, "What good could bat dung possibly be?" Surprise! She said they make gunpowder out of it! And even more surprisingly, they said they can turn that gross stuff into makeup like mascara and lipstick!
It was April in the mountains of the West, which means you can experience any or all of the four seasons in just one trip. We'd recently started our journey in warm temperatures, but by the time we hit that mountain pass, it started to snow - I mean the thick, big flakes kind of snow. You know what? Actually all of us started singing Christmas carols - even though it was just a few days before Easter. We were racing a deadline, so the snow was a mixed blessing. It was incredibly beautiful, but it was almost blinding at times, and it made our trip slower; it made it more treacherous. And then we saw it - this thin line of sunshine between the bottom of the snow clouds and the tops of the mountains ahead. We were excited because that was our future.
Actually the TV news report was a little amusing. These individuals came into the store, waving a piece of paper indicating they had just won a free DVD player, and they were coming to claim it. What they didn't know was that notice had been mailed by the police to their last known address. See, these people were wanted, but they had disappeared. But when they checked their mail, they had news of having won that DVD player. The amusing part came when the police arrested them on the spot as some of them were actually laughing at what they thought was a joke or some kind of a TV stunt. It was no joke. They were going to jail.
A friend of mine and his son love to take off backpacking along the beautiful river they've got near their house. And they've learned some interesting "tricks of the trade," I guess, to make sure they have clean water to drink without the weight of having to carry water with them all the time. They take iodine pills with them on their hikes. Apparently, they can collect some water from the river, dissolve iodine in it, and the water comes out clean. But then who would want to drink it? Iodine-flavored water? I don't know. It's not exactly the taste sensation that's sweeping the nation, right? But that's where the Kool-Aid comes in! Yeah, they put in some Kool-Aid and It actually makes that bitter water sweet. Or so they tell me!
I was on one of those early-morning airplane flights that's packed with business people. And as we landed that morning, we had one of those "two for the price of one" landings. We bumped and jumped along the runway as we landed. A lot of fun! And suddenly that commanded the attention of all us passengers who are usually numb from frequent travel. I thought, "I wonder what the flight attendant's going to say? I mean, this wasn't in any way a routine landing." Well, the attendant simply got on the sound system and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, now that I have your attention, I'd like to make a few announcements..." Man, did they have our attention!
Not long after we moved to this area, we had a chance to explore a beautiful cave that really has some breathtaking views. Most of the caves you tour in America were discovered some time in the 1800s. Not this one. It was just discovered in 1969. Actually it was discovered because of a giant sinkhole that opened up. Some adventurous young men decided to crawl down into that sinkhole and see where it led. The cave guide showed us the little hole in the rocks that they crawled through and then out into this huge room, decorated with spectacular rock formations. I don't suppose the big lights and sidewalks and the railings were there when they first looked in, but they must have been amazed at what they saw, and what millions have been able to discover because they did. And it was all because of a sinkhole.
Well every once in a while, that remote in my hand will take me to an educational place on television. I remember one night that I saw something with a very curious title. It was about "good things hurricanes do." Yeah. Now, we've seen plenty of the bad things hurricanes do, I was intrigued to hear about the good ones. This feature told about these Australian pine trees that somehow had taken root in a place in Florida. It hosted attractive plants which attracted a lot of beautiful birds and small animals. And the pines grew and got tall (which is something I don't know much about personally!), but they created this canopy over the plants they got so tall, and that blocked out the sun. And what had been this thriving gorgeous plant and animal life area became a stretch of sterile underbrush...until the hurricane hit. The storm literally snapped those trees in two. And the sun is back. The area is now a beautiful park with pools, greenery, flowers, herons, and lots of interesting wildlife. But it took a hurricane.