Excuse me, but I don't expect to be inspired when I eat at McDonald's. Fed, but not inspired. But recently there was a little inspiration with my burger and fries. There was this striking poster on the wall. It showed two mountain climbers near the peak of this Alpine mountain, straining to reach the top. But it was the inscription that impressed me most. "Conquest without risk is a triumph without glory." That's pretty good.
John Ashcroft was a United States Senator from Missouri and the committed follower of Jesus Christ, later to become the Attorney General in some of the most recent turbulent days in our country. When Dr. James Dobson interviewed him on his radio program, I was touched by the story Senator Ashcroft told about the day he was sworn into the Senate. He really wanted to be prayed into his new position that day, so he asked about 25 family members and close friends to join him in a room in the Capitol for a time of prayer before his inauguration into the Senate. Great idea! Senator Ashcroft asked his loved ones to stand in a circle around him in a time of dedicatory prayer.
"Should I call her, Dad?" That was a common question as our boys were teenagers. Like most boys their age, they were unsure of what kind of response they would get from a certain girl. I can remember at that same stage staring at the phone for 45 minutes and thinking of the most suave way possible to start that conversation. But no matter how prepared I was, when I heard her voice, I would just kind of croak out "hello." Now there were a couple of girls I just picked up the phone and called, no problemo. It was the same with my sons. They were these rare girls who just knew how to make a guy feel, well, safe.
Kasey pretty much blew high school. He was on our ministry team and he was a walking miracle. The pain of his childhood set him up to make some lousy choices, like drugs for example. He quit high school. He was headed for a wasted life or an early death until he met Jesus at the age of 19. He left all the junk of his past behind him and started a passionate study of God's Word, like memorizing hundreds of verses! Kasey wanted to get college training, but he knew that meant taking the GED test to get a Graduation Equivalency Diploma. He had pretty much failed math, he failed English and all the subjects he was about to be tested on. They were timed tests, something like 25-50 minutes. But at the beginning of each test, he bowed his head and prayed for about 10 minutes. The teacher administering the test walked up to him and said, "Excuse me, but I think you're going to need all the time. It's challenging to get it done with all the minutes you've got. You've got no time to pray." Kasey's answer? "There's no hope if I don't."
A pastor friend of mine wrote recently and caught my attention with these words: "I'm thankful that the Lord has a sense of humor." He went on to tell about a Sunday some 55 years ago. He was in child care during the Sunday morning worship service with a friend of his, and they decided they wanted to find out what the "grownups" were doing in the sanctuary. So they devised an elaborate escape plan. They waited until the adult child care workers weren't looking and they made their break. (Man, does this sound like something I could have done!) At an opportune moment, they darted out of the kindergarten room, determined to see what went on in that morning worship service. Unfortunately, one boy got caught at the last minute, but he yelled to my friend, "Keep going, Paul! They got me!"
My wife grew up on a small farm where her Mom and Dad and she and her sister were all the hands they could afford. It was a lot of hard work and it was a struggle to survive. So even though I'm a city boy, I care about the struggles that a lot of independent farmers have today. In many cases, it seems like a struggle to survive; especially with so many large, corporate-type farms coming on the scene. But I was heartened to read a while back, an article about a new idea that some are trying with a fair degree of success. Basically, these farmers have customers who pre-order what they would like to buy, and the farmer then plants it and sells it to them later. So if I wanted so much corn or so much beans, I'd order that and even do some pre-paying for it – which takes some of the pressure of upfront expenses off the farmer. In a sense, it's buying a share of the harvest before the harvest comes in – and then enjoying the fruits of your investment when it does.
It was a spiritual what they used to call "Kodak moment." That's what the closing night of our Warrior Leadership Summit was that summer. It was our privilege, as it is every summer, to bring together Native young people, representing scores and scores of Indian nations across North America. When you realize that only an estimated 4% of Native people know Christ after 500 years of mission work to reach them, this conference is almost historic. The mission each year is to help Native young people choose Christ, follow Christ and be a warrior for Christ in some very difficult places. That Kodak moment came when twenty young people, representing some twenty Indian nations, each stood to declare their commitment to go back to reach their people for Christ. Then they bowed at the foot of the old rugged cross at the front.
It was one of those unrehearsed Presidential moments that capture America's Chief Executive in situations you might never otherwise see. This happened to be after George W. Bush's second inauguration. There was a prayer service at the National Cathedral, and an offering was taken for which the President was apparently unprepared. What the camera captured was his Father, Former President George H. W. Bush, reaching over his son's shoulder from the pew behind him. He was slipping the President of the United States some money to put in the offering plate. It all happened pretty quickly and pretty skillfully, but of course the camera got it, and you just had to smile.
What mental picture comes to your mind when you hear these words, "They keep going and going and going." Do you per chance see this rabbit with sunglasses? Do you hear the drumbeat from the bass drum he's beating on as he moves across your TV screen? Then the people who created those Energizer battery ads have succeeded! Actually, think about it. Batteries are a pretty boring thing to advertise, "Here, would you like some batteries?" But most of us have watched with amusement as this particular brand of batteries keeps that crazy bunny going and going and going.
As a musical composition, Frederick Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" stands in a category by itself. There are few pieces of music that has the power to stir our hearts like that majestic chorus that even brought the King of England to his feet the first time he heard it. But before Frederick Handel wrote the "Hallelujah Chorus" and "The Messiah" oratorio of which it's a part, he wasn't having much of a hallelujah time. He was basically broke, depressed, and against a wall. Then someone asked him to write an oratorio, to be performed at this benefit concert on behalf of people who were in debtor's prison – locked up because they were too poor to pay their bills. There were 700 people who contributed to be at that premiere performance of "The Messiah" and the "Hallelujah Chorus" and 128 prisoners went free as a result!