I was speaking at a winter conference in Canada - and the word cold took on a whole new meaning to me. The temperature was minus-40 Fahrenheit - literally the coldest temperature I had ever experienced. When I walked in the room, people stood and sang, "Freeze a jolly good fellow." I really don't like to wear hats or hoods, but I learned to do it that weekend. One Canadian teenager told me he had been outside on his farm, in this cold, for 30 seconds and his ear literally froze - and part of it broke off. That is cold. I had about a five-minute walk ahead of me - believe me I had my parka hood on! I didn't realize you can do permanent damage in no time.
The first time I heard someone talking about an invisible airplane, my reaction was, "I don't think so." But, in a sense, there is such a thing. Not exactly an airplane that people can't see - but an airplane radar can't see. It's called the "Stealth" bomber. Of course, if a bomber is headed for you, you want to know it. And radar has always been what alerted defenders to that bomber. But the "Stealth" is able to come in under the range of radar - and invade air space undetected - and do damage it might never have been able to do if it had been detected. Nobody realizes they're in danger until it's too late.
You've probably seen an actor named Iron Eyes Cody in many Indian roles. He tells an old legend about a young Indian brave, going through the rites of manhood. As he hiked solo into this beautiful valley, he decided to test himself against that rugged, snow-capped mountain that dominated the valley. When he reached the top, he felt like he was standing on the rim of the world. Then he heard a rustle at his feet - it was a snake. Before he could move, the snake spoke. He said, "I am about to die. It's too cold for me up here, and there's no food. Put me under your shirt and take me down to the valley." The young brave refused. He said, "I know your kind - you're a rattlesnake. If I pick you up, you'll bite and your bite will kill me." But the snake said, "No, I promise to treat you differently. If you do this for me, I won't harm you."
I don't know why my friends keep shaking their heads when they try to teach me computer things. I must be a special challenge for them. Recently, someone saw me turning off my computer without going through all the steps you're supposed to. I didn't know - until they told me that day. I suppose my friend was shaking his head, as he watched me. He showed me how to bring up on my screen an option called "shutdown." When you activate the shutdown mode, the computer displays a special shutdown screen that stays on while the internal shutdown work is going on. Then, suddenly, your computer is off. When I asked my technically normal friend what shutdown mode was, he gave me a simple answer - knowing my techno-dork limitations. He said, "Your computer is cleaning out a lot of junk that's accumulated in there - any unfinished business from whatever commands it's been given since the last shutdown." Sounds good to me. Now I never end what I'm doing without going through shutdown mode. Neither should you.
It has been one of the great engineering challenges of our life together as a family - packing our car trunk for family trips. Many times I thought it was going to be a choice between the luggage and one or two of the kids. But summoning all of my tremendous engineering skills, I would stuff every corner, try the suitcases every which way until they went in; find things the kids could sit on. And when all else failed, I called my wife. Well, we finally got it all in, just barely. Then came the big moment - drum roll please - as I tried to close the trunk. It closed! There was dancing in the streets! Then, from behind, came the ambush as one of the kids showed up with one more bag I didn't know about. And there begins the frustrating search for a place to put just one more things in the space that is already jammed.
I hate to be late for a wedding - and I was. I had a carload of teenagers with me, and we were racing to make it to the church by 11. We pulled up at the church at 10:55 - and the parking lot was totally empty. Immediately my detective mind detected that something was wrong here. I drove over to the house where the reception was going to be held - they gave me the bad news - wrong church. I said, "Well, then, how do I get back to the main highway?" I was hoping for a shortcut, but no - I had to go back to the point where I shouldn't have turned and start there. We did get to see the bride go up the aisle - because I went back to where I went wrong - and then went right.
Sometimes I'll say kiddingly, "I've figured out what my thorn in the flesh is. My metabolism." It's true. It just doesn't turn calories into energy fast enough. Translation: I get fat easily. Years ago, my not-very-tall body weighed in at 210 - I've been about 40 or 50 pounds less than that for a long time now. And I want to stay that way. But I still have the same metabolism that got me to 210 - and the bakery, candy store, ice cream place look just as tempting - but I have to remember how hard it was to get that weight off! It's worth saying no to some temptations to avoid the struggle of getting back in shape!
Imagine a train traveling about 1,000 miles - and the passengers are almost all teenagers! And I was one of them. You say, "You mean they had trains back then?" Yes - they had just been invented. Thousands of us were on our way to this national youth convention on specially chartered trains. And don't you wish you could be a chaperone for something like that?
I was with two friends, returning from some Native American ministry in the Southwest. We had a rental car and a four hour drive to the airport in Phoenix. And we needed every minute to make our connections. Which made the lurch pretty annoying. Every time the driver would get the speed up to about 60, the car would start shuddering and lurching. Now with a 75 MPH speed limit, that was frustrating - and we weren't sure if we'd even make it with the shake, rattle, and roll mobile we had. Now everyone who knows me knows I'm no mechanic - but I did have a semi-technical idea. I said, "He did you check the emergency brake?" Answer, "No." I had driven that car the night before, and because I was parking for the night on an incline, I engaged the emergency brake. But neither our driver or I had thought about that brake the next morning. Well, from that point on we flew to Phoenix with no more lurching, but first we had to release what was holding us back!
In my little world, "nuke" is just a word to describe what happens to my leftover when I put them into the microwave. But when I was doing a week of outreach on an Air Force base, nuke meant something far more lethal - as in nuclear missile. This particular base was home to scores of the missiles that have been part of the front lines of our nation's defense for years. They're kept in underground silos, surrounded by very high-tech security systems. It was my privilege to be taken on a visit of one of the launch control centers there, each one of these command centers is responsible for ten missiles. At the time I was there, the center was manned by two airmen who were on 24-hour shifts called "alerts." When they were on "alert," they went underground into a fully self-sustaining unit that contains both the launch systems and the systems that protect those missiles from intruders. They showed me the systems which monitor virtually every movement every minute for their ten missiles sites. In fact these protection systems are so finely tuned that a plastic bag blowing across the prairie can trigger it, or some rabbit who has no idea what is under his little feet. Frankly, I was encouraged that we have crews like this that are on full alert - what they're responsible for needs full alert!