Saturday, January 26, 2008

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Airport!

(This is a true story. I wrote it in May 2005 a few days after it happened.)

After going through a couple of days of testing at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, MN Estela and I headed for the airport in hopes of catching an early flight back home. After ramping onto southbound I35 I began to drive 65-70 MPH. The speed limit is 55 MPH. I was passing vehicles but there were also vehicles passing me. Then I noticed this SUV pull along the passenger side of our rented SUV. Looking over I could see that the person driving was some kind of officer. Could have been a police officer or security officer or some other type of officer. This vehicle rapidly slowed down and pulled in right behind me. I thought for sure it was an unmarked police SUV and any second the lights would go on and I was going to get a ticket. There goes the earlier flight. But no lights came on. Other vehicles were speeding past us, so I assumed he was not interested in speeders. I could see the driver in my mirror and noticed that he was on his cell phone. Every lane change I made he made right behind me. When we took I494 East he followed. I changed lanes an he would even speed up and cut off someone else in order to get right behind me. I was concerned but I didn’t say anything to Estela because I didn’t want to alarm her. But when he followed us into the airport and then stayed right behind us as we took the rental car return ramp, I told Estela that this guy has been following us since we got on the highway at the hospital.

As we pulled into our rental car company’s parking lot on the second floor of the parking garage the other SUV pulled up beside us on the driver side. It was just past noon, about 12:10, and the early fight left at 1:05. Needless to say we were in a hurry. I turned our vehicle off grabbed the keys and the rental contracted and opened the door in a hurry to get out.

At that time the officer in the SUV was getting out and said, “Sir, stay in the vehicle!” While still on his cell phone, he moved to the front of our SUV and his partner moved to the back. They both were holding these little black boxes that were about the size of a palm pilot but they had a red light on top. He instructed me to put the keys on the dash and remain in the vehicle. Soon a police car pulled in behind us and two more officers were coming toward us from our left. The officer who pulled in behind us came to my opened door and asked me to step to the rear of the vehicle. Standing several feet away from me he began to question me and I noticed that his patch identified him as Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport Police. “What do you do for a living?” “Where are you from?” I had on my jeans, boots, and a black cowboy hat. I guess he figured I wasn’t from Minneapolis. Or, maybe it was my accent that gave me away. “Where are you going?” “Where are you coming from?” At which, I answered, Abbott Northwestern Hospital. “What were you doing there?” Going through test. “Why were you being tested?” I have a weak heart and I am in a research program there to try and strengthen it. “What was the doctor’s name?” “Were you injected with any type of radioactive material?” Yes. And I showed him the needle marks. “What was it?” I don’t know. While he was questioning me the officer who had been driving the SUV was questioning Estela. They took both of our drivers license and ran checks on us.

Well, what had happened was when we passed the SUV on I35 their Geiger counters went off detecting radioactive emission coming from our SUV (with tinted windows). The officers were with U.S. Customs a Department of Homeland Security. Not knowing if we had some nuclear device or what, they just chose to follow us. Then when we pulled into the airport you can imagine what might have been going through their minds. Now, here they were all around us – several Airport Police and two U.S. Customs agents. And then....

Walking up the garage ramp came two Firefighters decked out in full gear including oxygen tanks. One of them was waving a Geiger counter back and fourth (like a Sci-Fi movie). Coming toward me the Geiger counter goes off and pegs the needle. The woman firefighter said “You’re hot.” Estela has a tendency to agree with her but I’m not sure they are talking about the same thing. They made the rental car attendants move vehicles away from us and they wouldn’t let anyone coming through the parking garage get close to us. It was cold so they let me get back in our SUV and turn the heater on. The stress had pretty well wiped me out. I told Estela, “Someday this will be funny but right now it isn’t.”

The U.S. Customs agent said they couldn’t let us go until they could specifically identify exactly what was inside me. They had to know if it was industrial or medical radioactive material. It was a matter of Homeland Security. So, two more Customs agents came in an equipment truck and took out another machine that looked like the firefighter’s Geiger counter but this one had a digital read out. They pointed it toward me for about a minute and then it told them exactly what isotope was in me. When it identified a medical isotope all relaxed and dispersed except for the Customs agents. Finally, after we had been detained for about an hour and a half it was all over. They apologized for us missing our early flight and they came up and shook our hands and thanked us for being so patient and understanding. Up until then they stayed about ten feet away from us because I was emitting such a high degree of radioactivity.

So, be comforted that our government’s agents are out there, have impressive equipment, and are doing their jobs professionally, politely, and proficiently. Then again, it is kind of concerning that the medical test I go through puts that much radioactive material inside me. Although it can set off alarms and register as high as a Geiger counter can detect, they assure me it won’t harm me.

What if the life of Christ emitted from our relationships in a similar fashion?

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Joy of Discovery

As I reflect back to Christmas morning, I think of the faces of our four grand kids as they unwrapped their presents. As is our family tradition, we gathered together on Christmas morning and read of the birth of our Savior from the Gospel of Luke. Then we turned the kids loose on their gifts.

Filled with anticipation and excitement they would tear the wrapping paper off to discover what’s inside. Their eyes would light up, their mouths and faces would be descriptive of their discovery. There was no fear of the wrapping. They were not afraid of what was inside. There was no hesitation in opening their gifts. Why? Because they knew that the hands that wrapped them were hands of love.

Christian growth in life is a little like that. Our lives are wrapped up with the wrappings of sin and self, hiding and protecting ourselves from being discovered. Sometimes the wrapping looks all pretty and admirable, and sometimes not so pretty.

Those who are afraid to unwrap their lives probably fear that inside they will find condemnation, punishment, and shame. Yet, the hands that wrapped us up into the person that we are were hands of love. As a believer, inside, we will always discover more of Jesus and more of His mercy, love, and grace.

Most of us, most of the time, just try to make the packages look nice. Wrap it all up and put a bow on it. Put new wrappings on ourselves so we look good and feel better about ourselves. Most of our lives are spent rearranging the packages under the tree but never having Christmas morning. Never opening the packages to find the gifts. How sad!

Every time I tear off another layer of wrapping in my life I find more of Jesus and His grace inside. Why do I fear the wrappings or fear tearing them off to discover the gift? Everyday is Christmas when we discover that the gift inside is always Jesus.

1 John 4:18 (NASB95)
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.”