Bobby Leach achieved fame and fortune when, at the age of 53, he went over Niagara Falls in a barrel.
After recuperating from his injuries, Bobby toured North America and the UK with the historic barrel in tow, recounting the experience for enthusiastic audiences in circus tents and lecture halls.
Leach had been a lifelong circus performer, so daredevil stunts were nothing new to him. Even into his sixties he was attempting crazy things, such as swimming across whirlpool rapids.
So how did he die?
He was the victim of a banana peel. No kidding. He slipped on it, injuring his leg. The leg became infected, leading to gangrene, requiring an amputation, but it was too late. He died within a couple of months.
It’s the little things…
Is it strange that the man who could survive Niagara Falls in a barrel couldn’t survive a banana peel?
More often than not, it’s the little things that beat us. It’s because they catch us off guard. When you know you’re going over the falls in a barrel, you’re fully prepared and prayed up. Something as mundane as walking across the room, however, you’re likely to think you’ve got it handled.
That’s when we’re likely to slip.
And that’s why Paul said…
So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! (1 Corinthians 10:12)
I wonder how that banana peel got to Mr. Leach. Did he see it and think that the mere skin of a fruit couldn’t hurt him? Or was he simply not paying attention? Either way, the mistake proved fatal.
Think about the banana peels you encounter throughout the day. A missed devotional. A half-hearted effort at work. Spending without thinking. Carelessness in conversation. Neglecting those most important to you.
These things are more malicious than they appear. If you’re not careful, they can make you fall.
It works both ways…
The flip side of the coin is that these little things also have the potential to take you to the next level. Jesus explained it …
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” (Luke 16:10)
And he said…
“You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.” (Matthew 25:21)
You will encounter many banana peels today. Or they could be stepping stones. Pay attention to each one, remembering that how you deal with this little thing will lead to the next big thing in your life.
Jack Elway, former football coach of Stanford University and father of Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway, was once asked how he dealt with being an expert in the same field his son had chosen as a profession.
Jack’s response was: “In your son’s life he’ll have many mentors, many coaches, many men to teach and motivate and correct him. He’ll have only one father. All you have to do is love him.”
Reading this quote (in Randall Wallace’s book, Living the Braveheart Life) reminded me of something I had heard John Elway say years earlier.
After his second Super Bowl loss — if you’re a Bronco fan, you’ll remember those first two Super Bowls qualified as embarrassing — the younger Elway was, of course, devastated. It wasn’t merely a team loss; John himself hadn’t played up to par.
That evening his father visited him. He didn’t break down his son’s performance or offer any advice. He just sat with him.
It was one of those moments in which Jack knew that his son didn’t need a coach. He needed a dad.
Fathers, there are many roles you will play in the lives of your sons and daughters. Keep in mind that your greatest role is to let them know that they are loved, always, as we are loved by our Heavenly Father.
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. (Psalm 103:13)
Here’s another hymn story. This one takes place in Scotland in the mid-to-late 1800s.
It’s about about George Matheson who, at the age of 20, had what appeared to be a brilliant future ahead of him. He was an outstanding theology student, preparing for what would certainly be a distinguished career in academia. He was also engaged to the woman of his dreams.
Everything was just right … except he was beginning to lose his sight. Slowly, little by little, day by day, his world became increasingly dark. How can one become a scholar with no ability to read? Braille was still in its infancy; the options were limited.
His fiancé decided that she couldn’t bear going through life with a vision-impaired husband, so she broke off the engagement, and George Matheson’s world came undone.
However, he didn’t let this setback hold him back. He decided, instead, to become a pastor, and began serving a small church.
His sister became his devoted assistant. She studied Greek, Hebrew, and Latin to help with his sermon preparation and his writing. She accompanied him throughout the day, assisting him in his pastoral responsibilities.
Over the years, George Matheson became quite successful in the ministry: he became the pastor of a large church, and he wrote several books of theology, poetry, and sacred music.
And then one day his sister told him that she had fallen in love. She had made plans to marry, and would soon be leaving to begin a new life and family with her husband.
George realized that he would be alone. For 20 years his sister had been his connection to the seeing world. She had read to him, she completed his research, she had been his scribe, as well as his partner in ministry … and now he was alone again.
On the night before her wedding, he said, “Something happened to me, which was known only to myself, and which caused me the most severe mental suffering.” Those close to him understood that he was reminded of the time so many years before, as he was preparing to get married, and the love of his life let him go. And now he was losing his closest friend and confidant — his dear sister.
On that night, June 6 1882, as George Matheson thought about the love he had lost years before, and as he thought about the lonely days that lie ahead, he wrote these words…
O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
There are many who understand on a deep and personal level the story behind this hymn, and what George Matheson felt, because you, too, have at times felt abandoned and alone. No doubt we have all felt this way.
In a psalm written later in life, King David wrote…
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. (Psalm 139:9-10)
Your right hand will hold me fast.
To say it another way: You will not let me go.
God loves you with a love that never lets go. Even when you were at your worst, he sent his very best, his only Son, to die on the cross, so that you might live. No circumstance of life can separate you; nothing can take you from his hand.
… for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
In February 2005 a Colorado county court judge ordered two teenagers to pay $900 for the distress they caused a neighbor the previous summer.
What distressing thing did they do?
They baked some cookies and adorned them paper hearts.
The teenagers, Taylor and Lindsey, had stayed home this particular Saturday night — some friends were having a party but they chose not to go since there might be drinking. Instead, they made cookies for several of their rural neighbors, dropped off the batches on their porches, accompanied by red and pink hearts and a note that said “Have a great night.”
One neighbor, however, didn’t appreciate their kindness. She filed a lawsuit complaining that the unsolicited cookies triggered an anxiety attack that sent her to the hospital the next day. Judge Doug Walker ruled that 10:30 was a little late to be ringing someone’s door bell, and ordered the girls to pay the “victim’s” medical costs.
I’m afraid this might have caused Taylor and Lindsey to think twice before they decide again to do something kind. Certainly no one could blame them. But I hope it’s not the case.
Even though good deeds sometimes bring back more trouble than we deserve, we must never be discouraged from seeking out opportunities to display random acts of kindness.
One Sabbath day Jesus healed a man who later went out of his way to inform the enemies of Christ that it was Jesus who had done this miraculous work. (John 5:15) This began a chain of events that led to…
Therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God. (John 5:18 NASV)
Hardly worth the trouble to heal the man, wouldn’t you say? And yet, our all-knowing Lord healed him anyway.
Kent Keith said…
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.
These sheep that we’re called to take care of—sometimes we discover they have really sharp teeth. But don’t let a few bite marks prevent you from continuing to do good every chance you get.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)
Last week I talked about the show-stealing scene in the Peanuts special A Charlie Brown Christmas, the one where Linus reads from the gospel of Luke.
Today I want to say a little bit more about it.
There’s a detail in this scene that I never noticed until a friend pointed it out last year. Since then I’ve seen it referenced by several others; it’s just too good to overlook.
As you remember, Linus is the one who always carries the blanket. It’s called a security blanket, but it doesn’t really symbolize security. It symbolizes insecurity — the fear of uncertainty, the fear of inadequacy.
In this scene, Linus takes the stage with his ever-present blanket and begins to recite the story…
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid…(Luke 2:9)
And then, when he gets to the part that says Fear not, he lets go of the blanket. That insignificant piece of cloth representing all of his insecurities suddenly becomes unnecessary in light of the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And so the blanket falls to the floor.
The blankets we carry aren’t nearly as conspicuous as his, but ours exist nonetheless:
The security blanket of needing more money.
Or needing a drink to make it through the day.
Or needing to build yourself up by putting others down.
Or needing to win at all costs.
We carry these blankets with us because we think they will shield us from fear. But they never can, and they never do.
There’s only one way to escape fear — and that is to drop the blanket, once and for all, and decide that you will dare to live this day in the power of Jesus Christ. He has promised to be with you always, and he has promised to see you through every uncertain moment. And his promise is worth the risk.
Linus shared with Charlie Brown the true meaning of Christmas: Because of this child born in Bethlehem — the one who came to bear our sorrows and take away our sins — you can drop the blanket and embrace God’s presence in your life.