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.
A dear friend of this ministry donated the car he was about to trade in. It was a whole lot more car than I was used to driving, and it was a wonderful gift. It was pretty much fully loaded. One of its nice features was a compass that was mounted on the rear view mirror. At any given moment, it was showing an "N" for north, or an "S" for south...you get the idea. Now, why is that such a big deal? You don't know my sense of direction. Did I say "sense"? That compass is a real boon. I have no excuse now for not knowing where I'm going. Just consult the compass, right?
I was at the end of seven weeks of ministry travel and, believe me, I was really anxious to be home. Delays, of course, are just a part of air travel and I'm used to them, and I'm usually patient with them. But when they announced that the very last leg of my journey home was going to be significantly delayed, that was a test of my patience. Every half hour, they would tell us that they would get another update in another half hour. I knew the plane was there, the crew was there, all those passengers were sure there, but the flight just kept getting postponed. My homing instinct was going crazy.
A friend had been doing a lot of remodeling in his house, including some in his four-year-old son's room. They were building a little room inside his room that would have its own window and desk, and it would sort of be Troy's own little space. Of course at that point, it was just a frame with no walls. So Dad took Troy in there one day to see the work that he'd been doing. The little guy went into the frame of what would soon be his personal space. He came out with his lower lip out so far he almost tripped over it. Dad couldn't figure out why this nice thing they were doing for him would make him so sad. He quickly found out why. Troy said, "Dad, is this going to be my cage for my timeouts when I'm bad?"
When all our family was at home, I'd walk in the door to our house, and I'd be greeted by a lot of phone messages. And sometimes I didn't get the messages. Frustrating! Depended on who takes the message, how busy they were when they got the message, what there is to write with, what there is to write on, and of course you can also depend on where it gets set down, and also what gets set down on top of it. Well, I'm glad for cell phones; a new day dawned. But, boy, in those days, whew! II used to shudder when someone called me and said, "You know, I tried to reach you a couple of times." And I'd say, "Uh, I didn't get the message." "Well, I left one." And then they'd say, "No problem. It's too late now." Oh great! That usually led to a, shall we say, warm conversation with somebody in my family. I mean, after all, you expect messages to be delivered.
I guess I'm sort of an Energizer driver. I mean on a trip, if I have to, I can just keep going, and going and going. Of course, I need some help staying alert every once in a while: music, air, food, especially food. I must confess, though, that carrots and celery are not my idea of an exciting snack to keep you going. Now, you know, when we've stopped for gas over the years, one mile from empty of course, I've gone into the little food store and picked up a pack of those donuts or cupcakes or fruit pies. Nourishing stuff - health food, you know. I'm speaking in the past tense now. I have joined the "think about what you're putting into your body" movement that a lot of folks are in these days. Food manufacturers have to put this little label on their products now that tells you what's in those tempting little snacks. Now I check that before I buy it. I cannot believe the fat grams, the calories, the sodium and the cholesterol. Hello artery clog, hello high blood pressure, hello cholesterol, triple bypass surgery. A lot of food companies have figured out that trend, and that's why you see more and more products that are low-fat, no-fat, low-cholesterol, no taste. Actually, that contents list is a great thing for all of us. A lot of us aren't making our food decisions based on just how good it tastes or our appetite. We care about what's in the things that are about to be in us!
You know, it's kind of a dangerous thing being in organized crime. (Not that I know personally.) But they have this federal government's witness program, it's called the Witness Protection Program. It used to be very hard to get people to testify in organized crime cases for a very good reason. They knew it could cost them their lives. Today they know that the government will, through the Witness Protection Program, set them up for a whole new identity, in a whole new location, and they can live out the rest of their lives safely if they play by the rules.
Our grandson was really concerned about me. Grandma was at his house, taking care of him while Mom and Dad were gone, and I wasn't able to be there. Grandma was lying in bed with our little guy, trying to help him get to sleep. But he had some questions first. "Are you going to stay at our house all night?" Well, Grandma assured him she was. "But who's at home with Granddad?" Grandma assured him I was there alone, but that I could handle it. "But isn't Granddad going to be lonely?" Again, Grandma told our grandson that I would be okay. And finally he thought of some childlike theology that allowed him to go to sleep that night. He said, "I know. Jesus will take care of him." And I can assure you He did!