My friend Jim loves to wear this shirt that says, "I've been to the wilderness" - that's on the front. On the back it says, "I can handle anything." Sounds a little cocky maybe, but he did earn the right to wear the shirt. He went on a two-week wilderness program where they pushed him, and all those on the trip, to go way beyond their limitations. Running for miles, climbing for hours with a heavy backpack, living off the land, blazing trails, enduring the heat, going solo for two days with almost nothing to live on. Hard? Yes. Fun? Not particularly. Worth it? Ask Jim. Or, better yet, read his shirt. "I've been to the wilderness - I can handle anything!"
Spock, Scotty, a doctor called "Bones," the Starship Enterprise, the transporter, the Klingons - they're all part of a universe millions of people know as Star Trek. And if the oft-repeated TV shows weren't enough, the Star Trek crew became the stars of several major movies. And then came the new crew, set even farther ahead in our future - "Star Trek - The Next Generation." They were still boldly going where no one had gone before on the Starship Enterprise. But "Star Trek I" and "Star Trek II" had at something more than a ship in common - they both had a strong captain in command. First, Captain Kirk - who always seemed to have things under control. But then along came the "Next Generation" skipper - Captain Picard. He had a lot less hair than Capt. Kirk - but he seemed to be even more in charge. There was never a question as to who was in charge of the ship, the crew, and the situation. And when Capt. Picard would give an order, he would follow it with three "no argument" words that were always the bottom line - "Make it so."
You may not be able to tell over the radio - but I'm not a very big guy. Oh, I'm big inside. But outside, more of a Volkswagen than a semi. Which makes it amazing that both my sons ended up playing line in football. That's usually where they put the monsters. Actually, we used to joke that linemen wore their IQs on their jerseys - you know, like 75. But it was brawn more than brains they needed to either hold the line while their opponents were trying to move them or to break through those gorillas on the other side of the line. There are just a few simple instructions that every coach wants every lineman to learn and live by. Our guys heard this one all the time - "Keep your feet moving." No matter what. Even if it feels like you're going nowhere. Even if you're getting hammered. Even if you think it's doing no good. As long as you keep driving - as long as you keep your feet moving - you're making a difference. The alternative - getting knocked down.
When I was growing up - when our kids were growing up - when generations of kids were growing up, mommys and daddys read stories to their kids. And most of them had a predictable ending - "and they lived happily ever after." Except for this one nursery rhyme - the one about that uncoordinated egg. I wasn't sure what I was supposed to learn from that one. You know - "Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall; Humpty Dumpty had a great fall; all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty together again." I kept waiting for the happy ending. There isn't one. Humpty's broken, he's in pieces, everybody tries to put him together, and nobody can. Humpty is broken and no one can fix him. Not necessarily.
I looked, I blinked, I looked again, and I still wasn't sure what I was seeing. We were driving next to a railroad track when I saw a vehicle moving along the railroad track, but not a train. A pickup truck. He was moving right along down the track like a train, but a truck? Trucks have tires, railroads have tracks. Tires don't ride on tracks. Well, as I looked closer I realized what was going on here. This was a maintenance truck for the railroad, specially modified to run on tracks. It was mounted with special train wheels extending out from both the front and back of the pickup. So because he had been specially outfitted, he was able to go where he normally could never go!
My farm girl wife has a high tolerance for pain. "I know," you say, "she's married to you." I mean physical pain. She seldom complains and I often don't know how she's hurting. But she has had almost constant pain for the last eight years and it would flare up in different parts of her body, sometimes becoming almost paralyzing and unbearable. A lot of remedies and treatments took their turn trying to help her get better nothing worked; the flare-ups continued. Until recently. She is so thankful, she says with this big smile, "I am pain-free for the first time in eight years." What happened? Our family doctor went to work in diagnosing the problem and he concluded it was something called fibromyalgia. And once our doctor diagnosed what the real problem was, we could start working on some real relief!
I don't know if you've ever driven across the United States, but it's something you want to think twice about, it is a long haul. Now 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 this 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!
It's pretty funny the lengths some advertisers will go to convince you that you should buy their product, like those Samsonite commercials. Remember, the 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 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 they attached one to a ski boat, 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.
The most boring part of any youth group outing is the long bus trip, especially if the trip is from Michigan to Arizona. Not long ago I interviewed some kids who went on this mission trip to the Navajo Reservation, but I don't think they will remember the trip as boring. Because of the carelessness of another driver, their bus had to swerve sharply at one point and the bus went off the road and started to roll all the way over into a ditch. Needless to say, it was very scary. One-by-one they emerged from the bus and thank God, no one was killed. Some were injured and had to be treated at a local hospital. Well, when they finally arrived at that Indian reservation they were a sorry looking bunch. They weren't able to bring all their luggage with them, some were on crutches, in braces, patched, bandaged. But when they found out at least one reason why the bus had rolled well, they have been thanking God for that accident ever since!
Tornadoes I know about - we had one go through our backyard when I was a kid. Then we moved to the East Coast - so I also got the opportunity to get acquainted with hurricanes. But there is one natural disaster I do not know much about - and that's just fine - earthquakes. What I know I have learned from people who have been through them - like Mike, for example, the man in the seat next to me on a long airplane flight recently. Until recently, he lived in Northridge, CA - remember, that was the epicenter of a major quake not long ago. He told me he and his family were lucky to be alive after that quake. And the day after he was out in his backyard, cleaning up some of the damage. Suddenly, he said, the ground started moving around him - and he literally saw the ground moving in waves toward him. Now it was an aftershock - and it was scary to see. And he summed up what he had learned from that earthquake in just a few words - "Things you're sure will always be there - may not be."