Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Double Whammy Weekend

This past weekend was a "double-whammy" emotionally. Comedian Bob Nelson entertained in Little River on Saturday and former hostage and Philippine missionary Gracia Burnham spoke in Lyons on Sunday.

So we laughed on Saturday and cried on Sunday. The extremes of emotions were well covered.

When Gracia Burnham closed out her talk to 450 people at the Lyons Celebration Centre, she told a story about sitting in the living room of a Mississippi pastor, whose church had supported the Burnham family for years. The pastor asked Gracia what she dream about--what she hoped to do now that she was living in Kansas.

The question stumped Gracia. A little over a year had passed since the 376 day hostage ordeal in the Philippines--which ended with her husband Martin killed, but Gracia rescued. Her and her husband had spent 17 years as aviation missionaries in the Philippines. They had anticipated many more years there. But all those dreams had been shattered.

Gracia timidly replied, "I guess just raise my kids..."

The pastor asked again, "But what does the doctrine of grace suggest for your future?" And he quoted from 1 Corinthians 2:8-9--"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him."

Certainly, Gracia experienced horrible things as a hostage in the Philippine jungle. But in that conversation, she realized that despite her tragic past, she still had a future. Granted, it wasn't the future she envisioned, but it still was a future full of grace--full of God created open doors. Would she seize them? Or, would she let past sorrows define her future?

Gracia left Mississippi a changed person. So much so, she called her publisher and said she had to add one last chapter to the manuscript she just turned in--what became her book, To Fly Again.

Gracia's story reminded me of something Bob Nelson said me when I started an interview with him (When I get the energy, I'll transcribe it and post it here. We talked about a lot of interesting stuff--why a city boy was interested in forestry when first going to college, personal highlights from his Tonight Show appearances, the spiritual life of Red Skelton and Rodney Dangerfield, how his family helped lead him to Christ, what makes Bob laugh, how he met and worked with Michael W. Smith and Max Lucado's "Come Thirsty" tour, and what his future holds. So if you're a Bob Nelson fan, check back here).

I began the interview saying, "I'm here with the legendary comedian, Bob Nelson." To which Bob replied, "Yes, legendary means you're either past your prime, never existed!"

One other meaning of legendary is that you had a noteworthy past. How many of us don't have something in our past--be it good or bad--that has dramatically shaped who we are today?

But despite the past, grace declares there's still a future--still something good for you to experience from God.

As Timbuck 3 sings, "The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades."

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