Anne had ridden her mountain bike through a California wilderness park a lot of times before, but the ride this day would change her life. She was attacked by a mountain lion that hours earlier had actually killed another biker. As the cat literally held her in his jaws by the back of her neck, all she could do was pray. Humanly speaking, her friend Debbie was her only hope. Debbie jumped off her bike, grabbed Anne's leg, and screamed for help just kicking at the mountain lion. Imagine that!
Part of our ministry team has worked on a remote Native American reservation in the Southwest. In fact, our sons launched this ground-breaking outreach to Native young people many years ago there. The ministry at that reservation is part of our bigger initiative, "On Eagles' Wings."
The man who first climbed Mt. Everest said his reason for risking it was simply "because it was there." That's how it was with that monster sand dune near a Bible conference where I was speaking. Now, it wasn't exactly Mt. Everest, but it was a pretty daunting mountain of sand. The reward for reaching the top? A scenic view of a nearby lake and the satisfaction that you did it. I convinced two of our team members to climb that dune with me. Climbing sand is kind of like, you know, "much effort, little progress," as your shoes start filling with sand and your legs start yelling "Stop this!" We were about halfway to the top when my younger colleagues said, "Is this far enough?" They were ready to quit. We stopped to catch our breath and I pointed to the bottom of the dune and I said, "Hey, look at how far we've already come! Let's not turn back now!" They rolled their eyes and grudgingly agreed to follow the old guy all the way to the top. We were really hot. We were really tired. But I'll tell you what, the view at the top and the joy of conquest made it worth it!
I had 18 hours in the city of Rome. That's how long it was between my flight connections to Africa. I decided not to waste that time sleeping in the airport when I could be seeing one of the world's great cities. Right? And, my missionary friend, Dave, was kind enough to be my chauffeur and guide. With his help, I got a whirlwind tour that included the Coliseum, the Sistine Chapel, and some beautiful piazzas. But the highlight of my day in Rome was my visit to the Catacombs, those ancient caverns that wind beneath the streets of Rome. Dave's been there many times so he said he'd wait while I went in. Well, here were the caverns where some of the first Christians hid from the Roman soldiers who would take them to their execution for believing in Christ. And here's where they carved in the walls the ancient symbols of their faith - like the cross and the sign of the fish. Those symbols are still there as a silent testimony to their faithfulness. And here in the walls, they buried countless loved ones who'd been torn to pieces by lions in the Coliseum all because they would not renounce Christ for Caesar. As I emerged from those Catacombs, Dave said, "Well, what did you think?" All I could say was, "Our faith is very, very expensive."
Jenny was a counselor with a student group we had taken to a youth organization conference at the New Jersey Shore. She was walking along the Boardwalk enjoying all the attractions, and suddenly she heard what she thought was a scream. It seemed to be coming from the ocean. Now, it was night and it was, of course, too dark to see out there. So Jenny ran down the steps, across the beach, and to the water's edge.
Recently, a friend of mine had a ringside seat on a family of birds. They actually decided to nest under the roof on the porch. The fun part was watching the birth and development of those baby birds. My friend actually got to see them hatching out and then settling down into their nest. They all fit in there so nicely - at first. See, Mama kept filling their open mouths with more and more food, and the little birdies didn't stay little! They grew and the nest seemed to shrink. As it got more and more crowded, each baby did more and more wiggling around to kind of keep his position in the nest. Then they feathered out and they forgot about all of them sitting in the nest ever again! Well, they began to perch on the edges of the nest until they were pushed off the edge by their siblings in a battle for whatever food Mama brought. One by one, as crowding pushed those little birds to the edge - and then over the edge - they were forced to fly or die. They decided to fly. The last nester stayed in the nest for actually another full week, being fed as an only child by Mama Bird. Finally, Mama must have gotten disgusted with her nest-addicted child. She quit feeding him. First, there was a lot of squawking and fussing, and then even he abandoned the nest to finally touch the sky.
It was enough to make a girl stop talking for years to come. That is, about her relationship with Jesus. One day in high school, God laid it on my wife's heart, (of course she wasn't my wife yet), to share Christ with one of her fellow band members. Ricky was a drummer. In my experience, drummers are usually cut from a little different piece of cloth than everybody else, and Ricky was no exception. He was a wild and crazy guy with a mouth to match. But one day my wife got up the courage to rise above her shyness and tell him about her Savior. Ricky didn't exactly fall to his knees in the band room and repent. In fact, he said, "Well, if you're going to heaven, I want to go to the other place!" Ouch!
Are you sure you want to turn on the news tonight? Yeah, it will cheer you up. Right. We need a few laughs. That's unlikely. It has been pretty ugly. Things are happening environmentally that are difficult, the weather is kinda going crazy. You've got headlines about growing crime and financial turmoil, and gun violence. Boy, you know all those headlines.
A pastor I heard of was meeting one of the ladies from his large church one day, and he asked her, "What do you do?" Her answer was classic. She said, "Well, Pastor, I'm a disciple of Jesus Christ cleverly disguised as a machine operator!" I love that!
Who would think you'd miss a fleet of big brown trucks? If they say UPS on the side, you'll miss them if you're off the streets for long! I mean, Americans found out a few years ago when the UPS drivers went on strike. Within hours in some cases, days in almost every case, thousands of UPS customers were in a crisis. At that time they said 80% of America's packages were carried by UPS! It's probably changed by now, but that's how it was then. Apparently, all the other guys were fighting it out for the other 20%.