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!
My thumb is not and probably never will be green. But I think my friend, Mel, was born with a green thumb. He has one of the most beautiful fruit and vegetable gardens I think I've ever seen. More than once I've literally asked him to take me on a tour of his garden. Now, city boy always learns a lot in that garden. On my last tour Mel showed me a garden spider at work, for example. Actually he wasn't at work, he was at dinner. He was just finishing filet of grasshopper, the latest insect to be caught in his web. Now, while I was watching another grasshopper flew into the bottom of that web a few inches below the spider. Since the web is sticky, he stayed there. Mr. spider left his dinner and slid down this silk thread like a fireman would slide down his fire pole in a maneuver that you would have missed if you looked away for even a second. This spider spewed out a bombardment of silk and thread that totally encased and imprisoned that grasshopper. It was over in seconds! From the tiny touch of the web that grasshopper never stood a chance.
You know a sunny winter day can fool you, you look out the window and you say, "Oh it looks warm," then you go out there and you shiver your timbers and catch a cold for next week! But that sun can get something really warm. Yeah, even on a cold winter day. You know, if you put a board out there, a two-by-four, and you know the old science experiment, you hold a glass over that board and then you let that same sun shine on that through the glass. Eventually that board's going to get very warm, and it may start to smoke...I mean you could probably burn your initials in there if you did it long enough. Now, it's the same board, same sun, what's the difference? That piece of glass makes the difference. Why? Something transforming happens when you focus all that heat, on one spot.
My wife and I were zipping down the interstate one day when we saw this long cloud of thick, blue smoke ahead of us. As we got closer, we saw that it was belching out of the smoke stack of a semi. The smoke was so heavy you could hardly see as you passed it. It was a good time to hold your breath. These two guys were driving along laughing, seemingly oblivious to the smoke, and the smell that they were spreading down the interstate. Then I noticed some black spots on our windshield, and of course I did what would be instinctive to do, I started to reach for my windshield wipers, and man I'm glad I didn't. I looked at the car in front of me and saw he had turned his on, and all he had done was streak oil all over the window of his car; he could bearly see. That driver probably thought the smoke was just his problem. Hey, it was a problem for everyone who got close to him!