I enjoy starting my day with a fresh cup of Starbucks coffee – Grande vanilla latte, low fat, half caff, thank you very much. Not only do I enjoy the coffee, I’m blown away by their level of customer service. When I walk in the door of our local Starbucks, I’m still surprised that the barrister knows what I like to drink, what size cup I typically order, and even how hot to brew it for my taste – before I order!
There are nice beaches – and then there are really nice beaches.
During spring break my family and I discovered one of the most beautiful slices of sand and surf in the country – thanks to an extremely generous friend who gave us the gift of saying at their beach house. It’s a picturesque town called Seaside, located on the Florida panhandle halfway between Panama City and Pensacola. Forgive me if I sound like a travel agent, but Seaside will take your breath away.
You’ve probably heard the story of the starfish on the beach. If so, bear with me. As the tale goes, an evening storm dumped thousands of starfish onto the sand. Just before dawn an old man headed out for his early morning walk along the shore. Surprised by the piles of beached starfish, he knew the only way to save them would be to toss them back into the ocean. He had to act fast. There was precious little time to save them before the hot sun took its place in the sky.
A couple of years ago, I sat on the sofa listening to two friends making the case why I should write a book. They said things like, “As the new president of Focus, there will be tons of interest from folks wanting to learn about the man God called to lead the ministry” and “You’ve got such a compelling life story that could help so many people.”
I remained unsure.
While I understood their reasoning and their passion to see me talk openly about the insanity that was my life for so many years, I just didn’t think writing a book – at least not a book about my story – was the way to go.
One of my favorite movies is the Princess Bride. At one point in this playful story, Westley, a.k.a. “Farm boy” and the “Dread Pirate Robert” looks the lovely Princess Buttercup in the eye and offers this sobering bit of insight: “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”
Westley was right. Life on this side of the Garden of Eden is filled with pain. Anybody dealing with a terrible two-year-old knows this. Anybody suffering in a bad relationship knows this.
I grew up in a home where faith in God didn’t play much of a role. Neither of my parents claimed any sort of a religious preference. I’d say at best, we were a CEO-family: that’s code for Christmas and Easter Only churchgoers. We’d show up in church for the really big events. Like good CEO’s, we attended different churches around town just to cover our bases.
We might pick a Presbyterian church for Christmas and select a Baptist variety for Easter.
He’s written sixteen books. He starred in some 75 movies. He was a speechwriter for President Nixon and President Ford. And, he was awarded seven Emmys for a game show on Comedy Central. I’m referring to actor, author, columnist, lawyer, and movie producer Ben Stein.
Last week, while attending the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Nashville, I learned that Ben Stein (yes, the same guy from Win Ben Stein’s Money) was on hand for a screening of his new film called EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed.
My plane touched down halfway around the world. As we taxied to the airport, I rubbed the sleep from my eyes. I was exhausted after what had been a grueling twelve-hour flight. Which was understandable considering this was Day 19 on a 21-day international trip. Frankly, I wasn’t looking forward to making my way through customs. I knew from previous experience that some agents in foreign countries attempt to con incoming passengers out of their cash.
If this has happened once, it’s happened dozens of times. Whether I’ve been introduced to a new couple or I’m visiting with old friends, eventually I like to bring the conversation around to their children. I’ll ask, “So, how are your kids doing these days?”
With broad smiles and glowing faces, they’re eager to report the good things going on with several of their kids. So-and-so is “doing great in school” . . . “made honors English” .
I wish I had met John and Amelia Rocchio.
The Guinness Book of Records honored the couple as holding the world record for staying married the longest – 83 years. If given the chance to visit with them, I would have asked what they did to fuel the flames of romance for eight decades. Did they go on regular dates? Did they take trips to exotic places? Or, did they incorporate simple pleasures like candle light dinners at home, or hold hands on regular walks through their Rhode Island neighborhood?