It's been almost 80 years - but there's something about the sinking of the Titanic that fascinates us. Latest evidence - the incredible success of the blockbuster movie, "Titanic." I've always found the story of the last hours of this supposedly unsinkable ship to be a haunting story. People representing just about all the kind of people that there are, knowing many of them will probably die,facing the reality that, at best, half of them will get into a lifeboat. The ways people handled those terrifying hours on a sinking ship tell us so much about what we are really like.
Waking up early most mornings is not an option for me. If I oversleep, it means missing a plane or a speaking commitment or radio broadcasts or an important meeting. In other words, my clock radio had better work. And it does. Even on the days when many other clock radios don't. Because the power went out during the night, that is. There have been mornings when I have been awakened by my clock radio - and looked over at the other one in the room and seen it blinking at me some time when it was the middle of the night. Now, that clock was plugged into the wall - and sometime during the night the external power supply had failed. Good thing I wasn't depending on that! But mine always comes through - because it's powered by batteries! What keeps it going is inside!
If you've driven across America much, you've probably seen a sign sometime for Wall Drug Store in Wall, South Dakota. They advertise all over the country. I was in Singapore and I saw an arrow pointing west - it said something like "Wall Drug Store 10,000 miles." This once little drug store in an unknown town has grown into a major tourist attraction - some days they'll draw 20,000 people! But it wasn't always that way. In 1931 a young pharmacist and his wife bought the drug store in Wall, this dusty little town on the edge of the Badlands. And for five years, they barely eked out a living. On the verge of giving up, the druggist's wife had an idea. Because of the new Mt. Rushmore attraction, lots of cars were going by - but they weren't stopping. Her idea? Advertise the one thing those travelers needed after driving across that hot prairie - ice water. They put out signs for free ice water, the people began to stop, and the rest is history. Here's what that couple said looking back over the years at the amazing things that had happened - no matter where you live, you can succeed because wherever you are, you can reach out to other people with something they need!
Who would think you'd miss a fleet of big brown trucks? Man, if they say UPS on the side, you'll miss them if they're off the streets for long! That's what America found out 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. I couldn't believe what the strike revealed, that 80 percent of America's packages, at least before the strike, were carried by UPS! Apparently, all the other guys were fighting it out for the other 20 percent. On the first day back after the strike, I'll bet some of those drivers were greeted with a standing ovation by some of their customers, "You're back! We're saved!" What a mess it was, huh? Businesses were almost on the ropes in a few days. They were manufacturing their product, the folks on the other end needed their product. But it wasn't happening. A sender and a receiver aren't enough, if the person delivering it isn't doing their job!
The Garden of the Gods in Colorado is one of the most beautiful spots in America. And God has allowed the Navigators ministry to have their headquarters right there. My first time there was for a national committee meeting, where they worked us very hard. But finally someone suggested a hike to the waterfall. They told me this was some of the most spectacular scenery around these parts. Little did I suspect this was also an initiation for us rookies on the committee. Our walk started out on a nice path that ran next to this roaring mountain stream, and it was really roaring from the recent snowmelt in the mountains. Finally, we walked to this dead-end where there was only a rock wall in front of us. I said, "Where's the waterfall?" "Over there," they said, pointing across the stream. I asked the obvious question, "How do you get to it?' They pointed to this narrow pipe that spanned the stream and they said, "You cross the pipeline." I told them, "You cross the pipeline!" They were expecting me to balance myself on this little pipe and walk across? But that was the only way to get to the incredible beauty on the other side!
Isn't it amazing how intrigued so many people are with the Titanic - 85 years after it hit an iceberg and sank? Two TV mini-series on it, a blockbuster movie, explorations of the wreckage, even sales of pieces of coal from the Titanic. But it's hard to get the picture out of our minds. The proudest ship ever built - the supposedly unsinkable ship - on its maiden voyage, and then the haunting images of her disappearing into the icy waters of the Atlantic. Some 1,500 people died that night! It wasn't that the Titanic didn't try to get help. They set off flares and radioed an S.O.S. - which was picked up by a ship named the California. Historians have generally thought the California was about 20 miles away that fatal night - too far to away to help. That was until we learned exactly where the Titanic went down. Looking at the location of the California that night and the location of the Titanic has revealed an awful historical secret. It turns out the California was only about five miles away! Which means they were close enough to save people - and they just didn't respond.
I met Gary when we were both working with our local high school football team. He was a coach - I was the football. Actually, I was sort of an unofficial chaplain for the team. Gary's basically a happy guy, pretty laid back. Until they come up in the conversation. They are the men who were prisoners of war or missing in action in the Vietnam War. When it comes to the subject of the MIA's who have not been accounted for, Gary isn't laid back anymore. He becomes very intense, very serious. He is one of a number of veterans who are determined to do whatever they can to make sure we do everything we can to locate or account for those missing soldiers. I was at a flag-raising ceremony where Gary participated in uniform. The rallying point of the veterans there was that black flag - you may have seen it. It has the silhouette of a man's head on it - the words P.O.W. and MIA - and a stirring four-word motto - "You are not forgotten."
Angels, angels, and more angels. Somehow, the world has suddenly gotten very interested in angels. In fact, one of America's most popular TV shows has been a positive show called "Touched by an Angel." It's about these two angels - sort of a rookie and a veteran - who are sent on various assignments to deliver God's messages to people who are in critical situations. Now, I've watched it every once in a while - and the one I saw recently was about the rookie angel's performance review by a senior angel. Now, in the process, they flashed back on the highlights of some of the situations where she had touched people's lives and they had touched hers. There was one brief excerpt from a previous show that really hit me hard, even though I don't know what the whole story was. The young angel was kneeling at the feet of a man who appeared to be a dirty old derelict. The angel had a basin of water - and the man was telling her not to do what she was about to do - wash his feet. But she looked up at him with tears in her eyes and gave an answer that obviously came from deep in her heart - "I have to do this," the angel explained, "so I remember who I am."
Boutros Boutros-Ghali is gone - the man who was Secretary General of the United Nations through much of the 1990s.
Boutros Boutros-Ghali was replaced by a highly respected African diplomat with the comparatively boring name of Kofi Annan. As the spotlight shifted to the new Secretary General, reporters began to learn more about his life, including an enlightening true story he told from his childhood. His teacher came into his class one day when he was a boy, and hung a big white piece of paper on the board with a little black dot in the lower right hand corner. The teacher asked a simple question of his class, "What do you see, boys?" Everyone shouted out eagerly, "The dot! The black dot!" That's when the teacher said, "That's interesting. Doesn't anyone see a big white piece of paper? After all, the dot is just one little spot on this huge page." The Secretary General of the U.N. said he never forgot the lesson from that day - in areas such as negotiations, let's say. Don't get stuck staring at a little dot!
Remember when the word, window, only referred to an opening in a wall covered with glass. Now the space program changed all that. A window is still an opening, but the folks at Cape Canaveral referred to that brief period of time where everything is right for the launch. The wind is okay. The weather is okay. They checked it at the Cape. They checked the down range. The atmospherics are okay for communication. The conditions have been projected for the time of return and they look good. But the window will pass soon. If you're going to get it off the ground, go when the window is open.