It was exciting that first time I landed at LaGuardia Airport in New York City. There's the skyline of Manhattan out the window, and water all around us as the plane touched down on the runway. It was only after I had landed that my host in New York told me how they built LaGuardia Airport. He said, "Oh, they built it on the garbage of New York." Landfill in the bay created a base on which an airport could be built. By the way, on which my airplane just landed.
Not long ago I got to take one of my favorite East Coast walks. You know, growing up in Illinois, I didn't know much about the ocean. So when we moved to New Jersey, I quickly developed a pretty deep love for the ocean. So it's no surprise that Ocean City is one of my favorite places to go, right? And I love to walk out on the long, rock jetties that reach out into the sea from the beach. I really love it at high tide when the surf's crashing in around those rocks. When you see some of those monster waves surging toward those rocks, it looks like there's going to be a classic confrontation between the irresistible force (the ocean) and the immovable object (the rocks). Well, I'll tell you, the ocean sure overwhelms everything else in its way. But every time those rocks I stand on meet the mighty power of the sea, the winner is always the same. The wave is shattered. The rock remains.
If you grew up on a farm, there's probably a dog in your memories. For my farm girl, Karen, that dog was a Collie cattle dog named King. King was great at rounding up her Dad's cattle. All Dad would have to do was to whistle that certain whistle, and King would start circling and circling those cattle until he herded them in. But there was a problem. One day a chicken got out, and King killed that chicken-which gave that valuable dog the taste of blood. They tell me if you can't cure that in a dog, you can't afford to keep that dog. The dog either has to be killed or disciplined so he'll never forget. So Dad took that dead chicken (now, get this) tied its legs around King's neck with some twine. Needless to say, this dog tried everything to shake that dead chicken, but as the day wore on, the bird he killed did not improve with age. No, by the end of the day, King's head and tail were hanging very low. Look, it's a painful way to learn the seriousness of what he had done, but not nearly as painful as the alternative.
One little light. That's all it took to render our car totally unusable. The little light in the rear of our vehicle was left on one night after we unloaded some things, and it stayed on for several days while we were gone. When we got back, everything in that car said, "I'm not starting, pal!" because that one little light totally drained our battery. But then came the hero! Yes, up came our friend in his pickup truck with his trusty jumper cables. And those cables delivered the energy that my flat old battery needed to run again!
Over the years, our family has had some great times at the New Jersey Shore. And I love to see the Atlantic Ocean with all of its many moods: relatively calm, tide out, tide in, building surf, towering breakers, even angry in a storm. When the waves really start getting high, most swimmers make a wise choice; they get out of the water and they call it a day. But there's another breed out there. They're called surfers. Some on surfboards, some body-surfing, and they don't run out when the monster waves start coming. No, they run in! And they ride those monsters!
When you get a couple of veteran airplane travelers together, before long you're going to hear some "war stories." In fact, you're about to hear one now. It was one of those days at the airport. I was scheduled on this morning flight from the West Coast back to the New York area with a connection in a Midwest city. When I arrived at the airport, I learned my flight was being delayed for about four hours. Well, that's not that uncommon. but it was killing all my options for getting home for a while. Another flight on the same airline had been canceled, so now there is this long line of us not-so-happy campers at the airline's ticket desk. We're there for an hour and a half in line. The longer we had to wait, the more options were slipping away. Well, I found I had to quietly pray and remind Jesus and me that Jesus is Lord. The men behind me were becoming increasingly vocal about their unhappiness, so being the crazy man I am, I decided to try a little humor and lightheartedness. Pretty soon, we were laughing at our situation instead of overheating about it.
"They had to use the paddles on him." Now that sounds like something we might say about an exasperated parent's response to an out-of-control child. But the paddles we're talking about here were the ones they used on our neighbor when he was rushed to the hospital with a heart attack. His wife said they saved his life by using the "paddles" on him. Actually, what they used was a device called a defibrillator. (You see why most people call them the paddles.) The defibrillator has two paddles that, after they are placed on the patient's chest, generate this strong electric jolt to restart the heart. More and more ambulances are carrying them, more and more emergency medical technicians are being trained to use them, and they are in more and more public places. When the heart stops, something has to be done to get it going again - even if it takes a big jolt.
Two words, but a valuable reminder about how important Mom is and why she is. Recently, I had occasion to stay at my son and daughter-in-law's house while I recovered from a painful injury. They set me up with a wonderful little "apartment" in their basement – recliner, remotes (of course), kitchenette. And like all the babies in our family, a night monitor. Now, I needed some help in the middle of the night, but I hadn't touched the pager. Suddenly, I hear my daughter-in-law's feet coming down the stairs. In my 3:00 AM haze, I said, "But how did you know?" She smiled and gave those two little words: "Mom ears".
I felt kind of bad for our friend Peter. My wife, Karen, wanted him to raid the garbage for her. See, I've been there many times myself, believe me. But this time, they were driving around, Karen turned to Peter and his wife for help. They were driving past a gas station where Karen saw it-a big, green, silk plant, upside down in the dumpster. Too big for Karen to fetch, and too good, she thought, to leave there. So, my garbage picking honey turned to poor Peter, in his suit and tie, and asked him if he would make his way over to that dumpster. Well, he did, looking both directions, desperately hoping he could be invisible for a couple minutes. Sure enough, he pulled the thing out of the trash and put it in the back of our station wagon. This is a very secure man. And about that trashed plant...well, very soon it began to greet us day after day as we entered the reception area at our office. It's a classy-looking, silk Ficus plant, or that's what my wife told me. Karen saw something in it, even though it had been thrown away; something I can tell you I would have missed.
I was with several members of our Team in the relentless evangelism schedule of what we called our "Make A Difference" Weekends. We were getting pretty tired and our minds were totally focused on our outreaches. In fact, so tired and so focused, that I forgot about a radio station that was calling me for a live interview that afternoon. Now, I had just awakened from a brief nap and the phone rang. Thinking it was one of our Team members, I jokingly answered, "Good morning"-at 4:00 in the afternoon. Somehow, I was able to rebound immediately and go enthusiastically into that interview and I don't think the folks on the other end knew I was even surprised by their call.