For the first 16 years of my life you could pretty well guess what I would order in a restaurant. If it wasn't a hamburger, it was fried chicken. If it wasn't fried chicken, it was a hamburger. Now, people - especially my parents - tried to get me to try other foods, but eating out meant two things and only two. Did I mention it was hamburgers and fried chicken? Oh, yeah.
OK, I'm not much of a cook, but when my wife was really busy and under the weather, we got to eat my cooking for dinner. Which meant a very limited menu which invariably included the grilled cheese option. Now, when I would prepare that gourmet specialty, I would reach for my trusty skillet - the one that's coated with Teflon. You don't have to be a headliner on the Food Channel to know that life is a lot easier when you have a pan that things don't stick to; they just sort of slide right off.
There are few TV series that have become more a part of the culture than the one that portrays the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Right! You got it, Star Trek. The original show has spawned like two or three other series and some major movies. So a lot of people know about the transporter which beams your molecules up and then down to another location or the weapon that the Trekkies call a phaser. And maybe you remember the command that one of the captains gives whenever the Enterprise is coming under fire. It's the directive that activates this invisible protection around their ship, "Shields up!"
Many years ago, our state was America's Wild West. Out of that grew a pretty colorful state history, which I never knew much about before. But after a recent visit to the state capital, I came back with some interesting stories out of our past. I loved the story of the sagging roof on the original State House. The legislators had often been reminded that the roof needed to be replaced before something ugly happened. Well, they never got around to passing a bill to authorize that replacement. (Can you imagine?) And then one day, with the Legislature in full session...you want to guess? The roof finally collapsed on the legislators. Thankfully, no one was seriously injured. And the next day, for some reason, (Guess what?) they passed a bill for a new roof; the day after the old one fell on their heads!
I've eaten a few plums in my life, but I never found it particularly inspiring or educational. But one of our team members ate a plum recently and got an insight that I found enlightening. When she bit into that plum, it tasted very sweet. It didn't stay that way. The closer my friend got to the center, the more bitter the plum tasted. She explained to me her simple, but probably accurate, theory about this bittersweet taste experience. She said what the sun has touched is sweet; what the sun hasn't touched is bitter. And I said, "Hum?"
It was one of those times when there had been a wave of nasty infections going through our area and, therefore, through our team. Thank the Lord, I had not been one who got knocked out for a week or more by this bug. And I was very grateful for all the people who pray for me at times like that. It's got to be one of the big reasons why I'm still going strong is all those prayer warriors. Of course, I try to do what I can do to stay healthy. I've concluded that one of the biggest things you can do to keep from getting sick is just to wash your hands frequently. (Boy, have we heard that recently? I sound like your Mother don't I? "Wash your hands!") But wherever I travel, I take my trusty towelettes and my liquid disinfectant. Because we're picking up germs that could infect us all day long! Look, whether it's a virus or anything, It's still a good idea to wash your hands pretty regularly.
Each summer it's been our privilege to travel with a team of young Native Americans to take the hope of Jesus to America's reservation young people, and God has really shown up powerfully for these young spiritual warriors. Like the night one summer in a very remote corner of New Mexico when our last outreach was about to be rained out. The previous night the thunderstorms had hit the basketball court just as we were about to present the Gospel. So, this was now our last opportunity to invite young people to come to Christ in an area where the spiritual darkness was very deeply entrenched.
When you've done youth ministry as long as I have, you've seen a lot of volleyball. Yep! Some of the dramatic moments in a volleyball game, of course, come when one player slams that ball over the net and right into the ground before any opponent can touch it. He or she just spikes it in. But often there's an important move that precedes spiking it in; that's when another teammate lofts that ball up and into perfect position for someone else to spike it in. That's how to score points: first, you set it up, then you spike it in.
I don't think our area had ever seen anything like it. It was a thick, almost unbreakable sheet of ice that covered much of our state. And it wasn't just here for days. It was here for weeks. Two consecutive storms actually created a double and triple freeze situation that made walking as treacherous as anything I have ever experienced. We had a couple of horses that needed hay and grain and unfrozen water. It didn't matter how dangerous it was to get to them. I tried to reason with them, but they just wouldn't listen. So here was a city boy carrying two heavy buckets of water at a time when no one should have been trying to walk on this ice. I have never walked so carefully. I have never prayed so continuously in my life! And while local emergency rooms were jammed with people with broken limbs, I didn't fall!
Whenever we had a young grandchild come over to our house, it was almost all good news. The reason I say almost is because of the preparations we have to fly into to get ready for the arrival of like a two-year-old. Yes, I said two-year-old. That's as in "super inquisitive." (Yeah, you know.) See, our little grandchildren...they had a way of exploring and experimenting with every object within their reach. There are two kinds of things that need to quickly disappear before a young grandchild starts his little adventure at Grandma and Granddad's house. Things that can damage either the child or that he could damage. So as we would joyfully anticipate a little one being with us, we would also fly into a frenzied little exercise called baby-proofing our house.