For a lot of people in California, the year 2001 began in the dark! The headlines kept telling us that millions of Californians were having to endure what was called “rolling blackouts”. Apparently, when the energy industry was deregulated, it was supposed to lead to utilities buying power at lower prices – instead, prices skyrocketed. And deregulation also forbade them to raise prices to the consumer. Whatever the cause, the result was clear. For certain designated hours, the power company had to turn off the power to different areas at different times. So when the blackout rolled into your area, you suddenly had no electricity – and if you had something to do during that time that required that power – tough!
I had a special visitor the other day – Steven, who is the son of one of our Team members. Cerebral palsy left Steven with some severe mental and physical limitations – in fact, more than any parents could manage at home. So Steven is in a special care facility – and he’s a special young man from whom his parents say they have learned so much about God’s love. Because he’s not home much – and because I’m away a lot – his Mom brought him in the other day so I could meet him. I was just on my way to the radio studio to meet a pressing deadline when Steven came in. I got to tell him how much his Mom means to us, how much she talks about him and loves him, and how much I liked what he was wearing. Even though we were just visiting for a few moments, Steven suddenly started pulling at his coat. His Mom said, “You want to take off your coat and stay a while, don’t you, Steven?” She said he doesn’t do that much. That really got to me.
When you live in the Northeastern U. S. like we do, you usually pack your shorts and t-shirts about November and file them under "See you in April." But it was January - a big winter month where we live - and people were suddenly all over the place in their shorts and their summer clothes. It was 74 degrees! We figured either our calendar or our thermometer were wacky - but they both were right. It was a great experience - June days in January. Unfortunately, the weather fooled the bushes and flowers in our yard. They felt the warm temperature and said, "Ooo, this feels good. Must be Spring. Time to wake up!" So, sure enough, the buds started appearing all over our yard. But I wanted to yell at them, "Not yet, guys! This isn't going to last! It's too soon! This isn't going to work!" Unfortunately, I don't speak "Plant" fluently. And when the inevitable freezing temperatures returned, those poor early-bloomers were in for an awful shock.
I think I was a kid the last time I saw a three-legged race - it was at a Sunday School picnic. I resurrected the three-legged race a while back to illustrate a point to a group of teenagers. In case you've missed the thrill of a three-legged race, here's how it works. The racers run in teams of two. You tie the left leg of one to the right leg of the other, and they run the course as best they can like that. Run might be a slight exaggeration. They skip, they shuffle, they stagger, they limp - but run? Not really. It's really hard to run when you're tied to someone else who's slowing you down!
One of our ministry team is a pretty enthusiastic auto-racing fan. If you're into that sport, then you know that Jeff Gordon is one of the best in the business. One of the people that helped him get to that position is the man who has been head of his pit crew. You've seen those high-speed cars swing into their service pit and only seconds later roar back into the race. My racing fan friend told me recently about a TV special on Jeff Gordon. On it, they interviewed the head of his pit crew - who, by the way, has a degree in organizational behavior. He revealed just how amazing the work of the pit crew is in a sport where seconds really matter. The pit crew chief said they will change up to 20 tires in one race - just think of what those speeds must do to a tire! And they change a complete set of four tires in 13 seconds - that's faster than I can finish off a bite of my dinner! The driver is the name everyone knows - but the driver knows he's nothing without his pit crew!
My daughter and I hugged a lot when she was little. Even when she got to be a grownup college student, we would still declare "hug alerts." Sometimes, when I hug my daughter, she'll say, "You smell like Daddy." Now, I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Now she hugs other men, of course - her husband, most of all, her brothers. She tells me that they smell like themselves, too. I guess it's good that I smell like Daddy - I'd hate to smell like someone else. The fact is that people do have a distinctive aroma, whether it's pleasant or unpleasant. And we remember the smell they leave behind.
As our kids were growing up, Saturday was always chore day at the Hutchcraft house. It was the day we got our leaves raked and bagged, rooms got cleaned - or hosed out like a monkey cage - it was the day the garage got dug out, the dirty clothes got clean, broken things got fixed, you know. Now it wasn't that kids jumped out of bed on Saturday morning saying, "What do you have for me to do today, Dad?" No, Saturday mornings often involved some delicate labor negotiations - especially when it came to someone getting a job that meant more time and more dirty work than some of the others. That child might say, "I don't want to do Job A. I want Job B." To which I would reply, "I pay the allowances and the bonuses around here. (See, usually there was extra pay for extra work). Don't forget lesson #1 of working - you don't pick your jobs. The person who pays you decides the jobs you'll do."
My wife accuses me of being a creature of habit. I prefer to think of myself as "structured," you know. But I do exhibit some behaviors that are a bit compulsive. I don't think I'm dangerous, though. For example, it does not matter what time I get in from the airport or the interstate after a trip, there is one thing I will do before I got to bed. I will unpack. Sure, it's 2:00 A.M., but I will get everything back to its proper place. An unpacked suitcase will pursue me all night long if I don't. Now sometimes my sweet wife will try to inject a little common sense by simply asking, "Why not unpack tomorrow?" Of course, she doesn't know that's totally illogical. I'm not home until I'm unpacked. Neither are your children.
Apparently, the airlines know you have to keep us Americans amused. They try to keep something happening on those video screens during much of the flight. If it's a long flight, you get a movie. If it's a shorter flight, you get shorts - not to wear, I mean, the kind you watch on the screen. And I'm usually so busy amusing myself with all the work I have to do, I don't pay much attention to the screen. But on this one flight, I did occasionally glance up at the girls' gymnastics competitions they were showing in the sports highlights. The big competition was between the United States and Russia, so my star-spangled blood was pulling for you-know-who. After each girl performed, they would do this little replay. I never saw a replay of anything she did right. They insisted on showing two or three times where she messed up. "Look, everybody - see the one thing she did wrong." That bothers me.
We have a wonderful Christian radio station in our area. Well, it's wonderful if you can hear it. A lot of people can. But I just talked with a friend who lives another direction who says she just can't pick up that station where she is. But then I've met people who live in a part of the area where the station has a strong signal - and they've never heard it either. They have never turned to that frequency. Important information is being communicated over that station - actually, eternally important information. But a lot of people are missing it. Some because the transmitter isn't transmitting their direction. And others because their receiver isn't tuned into that frequency!