If you've ever had a teenage son, you'll know this answer. When a teenage boy gets home from school, what's the first question he asks? "What's for dinner?" Now one of our boys' unfavorite answers to that question was that dreaded "L" word - leftovers! That was especially scary after Thanksgiving, when we found it seemed like that turkey would never end. Now leftovers aren't too many people's first choice for a meal. Right? And the longer they've been left over, the more unsatisfying that choice becomes. I know I've never been to a restaurant who offered an item called "leftovers" on today's specials, or anywhere on the menu for that matter. Let's face it. They're second best - at best.
There's this little bare spot in the grass in our backyard. It's been there since our boys were little. That was the first home plate they ever knew. Yes, that's where I taught them their first lessons in how to play baseball. Now our backyard isn't very big, so we had to start with a plastic bat and that little white plastic ball called a wiffle ball. But as I pitched and our boys learned to swing, there was one lesson I tried to permanently tattoo on their brain. It was the lesson my father taught me, that his father probably taught him, that somebody has taught every person who ever picked up a baseball bat - the most basic secret of success in sports...keep your eye on the ball!
I was on the plane, returning from ministry in Belfast, Northern Ireland when I heard the fascinating story. Danielle, the woman next to me, has deep roots in Northern Ireland. We got to talking about the Titanic, which was built in Belfast. That's when she told me about her great-grandfather. He was a professional seaman - and he had been assigned to sail on the Titanic. But at the last minute, his orders were changed - to sail instead on the Carpathia, the ship that was first on the scene of the Titanic's sinking - actually the ship that rescued the survivors from the icy waters of the Atlantic.
There aren't many visits to a graveyard that might be described as "amazing." But one I had recently was nothing less than amazing. When our "On Eagles' Wings" outreach team of young Native Americans was on the Nez Perce Reservation in Idaho, we met this young basketball player named Quanah. He made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that weekend, and he asked if he could go with our team to other reservations for the following two weeks. We don't usually add team members along the way, but because of the urging of some strong Native believers there and our own sense of Holy Spirit's leading, we invited Quanah to join us.
It's got to be one of the most unique sporting events in the world - it's the Iditarod, the ultimate sled dog race in the world This past year 68 teams lined up for the historic 1,000-mile race from Anchorage, Alaska, to Nome. Of course, it didn't start as sporting competition. It started in 1925 when the stakes were much higher than a cash prize - it was the lives of countless children in Nome who had been exposed to the dread disease, diphtheria. The only serum to fight it in Alaska was in far-away Anchorage. It had to get to Nome in the shortest time possible. And it was carried in an amazing, Pony Express-like, relay by one dog team after another. It took 20 drivers, some of whom braved mountain ranges, brutal weather, a merciless gale. But on February 2 - only 127 hours after the first team left - the last driver arrived in Nome with his tired dog team and 300,000 units of that life-saving serum.
There are few moments in recent American history that are more indelibly etched in our memories than the explosion at the Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City in April of 1995. We've all got mental images of the twisted rubble, the terror and grief on victim's faces, and the heroic efforts of the rescuers to get into that building and save the survivors. There were also heroes behind the scenes as well. For example, there was a convention of restaurateurs taking place in a downtown hotel that day. Like so many people in Oklahoma City that day, as soon as they heard about the explosion and the rescue efforts, their plans changed. Suddenly, they set aside their convention schedule and commandeered the hotel kitchen - and dedicated themselves to supplying meals to the rescuers so the rescue work could continue uninterrupted.
Most of the top-selling Christian videos in America have the same name on them - Bill Gaither. He has assembled some of Gospel music's legends for what he calls "homecoming" musical gatherings. And as the videos have grown in popularity, some of yesterday's Gospel legends have become legends to a new generation. One of those is a pillar of Gospel music, Vestal Goodman. Belting out her songs with her trademark hankie in her hand, she uses one of the most powerful voices in her field.
But, according to her husband Howard, it wasn't always that way. In fact, he said that when they were first traveling together from revival to revival, Vestal had just this quiet little voice, which is pretty hard to imagine today. But he said something happened the day a storm blew through the camper park where they were staying and that storm destroyed most of what they owned. That night, at the revival service, Vestal got up to sing as usual - except it wasn't usual. Suddenly, for some unexplainable reason - no doubt, supernatural - she belted out her song with a power and authority neither she nor her husband had ever heard - and that has been her trademark ever since.
Lenny Skutnik was just one of thousands of federal workers heading home from work that January night – the night Air Florida’s Flight 90 crashed into the Potomac River near the Pentagon. The plane had failed to clear the 14th Street Bridge, and it fell into the frigid waters of the Potomac. A few passengers who had managed to get out before the plane sank were in the icy river, crying for help.
Lenny Skutnik saw the plane go down ... he heard the cries of the passengers in the water ... and he jumped into the river to try to help. He actually managed to save the life of a woman who otherwise would have almost surely died in the Potomac that night. A couple of weeks later, during President Reagan’s State of the Union address, Lenny Skutnik, everyday guy, was introduced as a real American hero on national television by the President of the United States.
Anyone who has taken their child to Disney World has almost surely been required by Junior or Junioretta to ride ‘the ride’. It’s this little boat you take along the winding path of a brightly colored canal. You’re surrounded on all sides by singing dolls representing children from every part of the world. And they’re all singing the same song with the same refrain: “It’s a small world, after all.” Over and over again, they sing, “It’s a small world after all ... It’s a small, small world.” And it’s cute – for a while. But after the 93rd chorus of that little song, you’re ready to swim the rest of the way just to get out of that tunnel. Inside you’re screaming, “I’m sick of a small, small world!” Actually, that’s how a lot of us are feeling about our life.
In the course of working with our “On Eagles’ Wings” outreach teams, I have done a lot of driving across the Indian reservations of America. And some of them, like the Navajo Reservation, for example, have long stretches where you see only a handful of people or houses. If I follow my usual custom of waiting to get gas until I’m running low, I’m in big trouble. One night several years ago I was driving a borrowed station wagon which had a fuel gauge that was stuck on ¾ of a tank – except I didn’t know that. We struck out across the Navajo Reservation and ended up out of gas literally in the middle of nowhere. People who drive the reservation know there is a basic survival rule – take time to fill up with gas before you start your trip!