"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 when I heard her voice, I would just croak out this "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. There were these rare girls who just knew how to make a guy feel - well, safe.
Kasey pretty much blew high school. He's one of our ministry team and he's a walking miracle. The pain of his childhood set him up to make some lousy choices, like drugs for example. He quit high school and 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 some hundreds of verses! Kasey wanted to get a college training, but he knew that meant taking the G.E.D. test, to get a Graduation Equivalency Diploma. He had pretty much he 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 ten 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."
So much of the furniture and equipment in our office is a God-story. He has miraculously provided so many things through His people - things we could never have been able to buy. One of those things is our telephone system. A Christian brother was upgrading the system at his company - and donated his old system to us. And that old system is great for us! Now our phones have this battery of buttons on them - most of which we have just been looking at or ignoring. We have had no idea what they do. Our Team has been so busy that no one has really had the time to read the manual! Finally, we assigned that research to Jeff - and the other day, he reported back to our Team. He showed us all kinds of sophisticated tricks our phones could do - and here we've been settling for just using a phone line and the "hold" button. These phones are amazing. They've been amazing all along. We've been slumming it - when we could have been going in style!
The scene is a high school assembly where I was speaking. I've asked five students to come on stage with me. One young man is blindfolded and standing in the middle of his four friends. They form a square around the blindfolded guy - one has a $10 bill to give him - if he chooses to come to their corner of the square. The problem is the other three are going to tell him they have the $10 - even though they don't. In fact, they each have something else to give Mr. Blindfold if he comes to their corner. One has a super-soaker squirt gun to baptize him with, one has a full trash can to dump in his arms, and the other has a whipped cream pie to put in his face. This poor young man in the center knows three of his friends will be lying about having the money, one will be telling the truth - but he has to decide, sight unseen, which corner he will go to. They each make their convincing pitch for why what he wants is in their corner. Then, he has to decide which voice he will follow. Right choice - he walks away better off. Wrong choice - uh, messy ending!
I had a busy schedule of speaking in the Chicago area that week - but I had one night free. It happened to be during Founder's Week, the outstanding Bible Conference that's held by Moody Bible Institute every year. When I heard that one of my favorite speakers was there that night, I told my wife - who was able to make this particular trip with me - that I wanted to attend. And we did, along with some of our ministry team members. Now, since we would be arriving a little late, I called and asked that some seats be reserved - they were kind enough to accommodate us. But something very unexpected happened that night at Founder's Week - very unexpected. The president of the Moody Alumni Association began reading a brief biography of the person who was to be honored as this year's Alumnus of the Year. The more he read, the more familiar this life story sounded - to my total shock, he was describing me. Well, my wife says I slowly sank in my chair and fought a losing battle with the tears in my eyes over God's amazing grace in my life. Now, afterwards, I had a thousand questions about how I had actually ended up at that meeting that night. My family and team members had been involved in an eight-month process to maneuver me to Chicago for that week and to a schedule that led right to that place. I was sure it had been my choice - but I had actually been skillfully directed to that choice through the imperceptible workings of someone else. And as for the seats I reserved that morning, they had been reserved for a long time!
The hazards of shopping at a mall. Let's see: overheating your credit card, pickpockets, an occasional mugging, being run into by a ship. Wait a minute! That is exactly what happened to about a thousand Christmas shoppers at the Riverwalk shopping complex in New Orleans. Navigating the most dangerous stretch of the Mississippi River near there, a freighter suddenly lost power. In or near its path were two cruises ships holding 1,700 people and a riverboat casino with 800 people on board. The potential was there for hundreds of fatalities. But the pilot of the freighter got his emergency horn wailing and that gave people on the ships and in the mall a warning. He dropped his anchors in a desperate attempt to at least slow the ship and somehow managed to steer without power between those three ships. Yes, the freighter plowed into the riverfront stretch of stores and restaurants, but because of how that pilot responded when things were out of control, the people were saved. Here was the amazing headline: "None Dead in New Orleans Accident."
Our dog Missy now has to share our attention with another pet, actually it's a canary who we named in honor of one of our Native American friends, we named the canary Cherokee. This little yellow cheerleader is great for when you're in a bad mood, because he never is. As soon as you uncover his cage in the morning, he starts warbling his repertoire of happy tunes. It may be a sunny day and you got happy singing all day long. It might be a miserable day guess what happy singing all day long. The people around our canary may be happy, or stressed, or noisy, or quiet, or down, it just doesn't matter. No matter what, he's singing!
I don't know how long Presidential candidates have had campaign songs, probably since George Washington! Now, Franklin Delano Roosevelt's was pretty famous, coming as it did through the Great Depression - "Happy Days Are Here Again." Now Bill Clinton had a song for his 1992 campaign, in fact he reached back, I think it was back into the '70s, for his song, remember? - "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow." They used it so much some people wanted to sing, "Please Stop Singing About Tomorrow." Now I don't know how you feel about the candidate, and I don't even know if you like the song - but it's not a bad theme for your campaign!
Well one trait that seems to have infected every member of our family is the enjoyment of getting just the right gift for each other. So over the years you would often hear the question, "so what would you like for your birthday, or your anniversary, your graduation, Christmas?" And the least appreciated answer goes something like this, "I don't know, anything is fine." Oh, great! I was hoping for something a little more specific.