Read an Excerpt
Never Lick a Frozen Flagpole
Snow and ice covered the school grounds, but the sixth-grade class went outside for recess anyway. In Jean Shepherds delightful tale called A Christmas Story, Ralph and Flick and Swartz and four or five other students huddled in the cold, their conversation creating clouds of vapor in their midst. Surveying the frosty schoolyard, one of the boys remembered a warning hed heard from his father. If you touch your tongue to a frozen flagpole, his dad had said, you could never get it loose. Youd be there for life.
Another boy chimed in that his father actually knew a man who had touched his tongue to a frosty railroad track. The fire department had to come and get him loose.
Thats not so, said Flick, scoffing at his friends stories.
All eyes darted from Flick to the schools frost-covered flagpole as Swartz, defending his fathers integrity, hotly replied, Then I dare you to do it!
Daring is serious business to twelve-year-old boys.
Flick was tempted, but he didnt move. Then Swartz double-dared him. And as every twelve-year-old boy knows, it is almost impossible to withstand a double-dare. Only one thing is worse . . .
I triple-dog dare you! Swartz shouted.
That was it! No one could resist a triple-dog dare. Flick stuck out his tongue and headed for the flagpole. He really didnt want to do it. But how could he live with the guys if he backed down on a triple-dog dare? Throwing his chin up with a cocky air, he defiantly thrust his tongue against the frozen pole.
Not so bad, he started to say. But the words wouldnt come out. And his tongue wouldnt come off the pole.
The bell rang. Recess was over, and the kids ran for their classroom. Flick, still attached to the flagpole, screamed bloody murderas best he could.
Back in class, Miss Shields spotted the empty seat. Wheres Flick? she asked.
No one could seem to remember just who Flick was. Finally she looked out the window. There stood poor little Flick with his tongue stuck fast to the flagpole. The fire department was hastily summoned. The police came, too, sirens screaming. The whole sixth-grade class watched from the window as the rescuers set the hapless boy free.
Flick returned to the classroom with his tongue bandaged. It would be at least a week before he could talk clearly.
Why Do We Lick the Frozen Flagpole?
Weve all done stupid things. When were twelve years old, its often because of a dare. When were adults, our moments of stupidity may arise from simple curiosity. Or risk-taking. Or yielding to some temptation even though we know better.
Many of us do stupid things because of our inherent sinful nature, that part of us the apostle Paul described in his letter to the Romans. We constantly fight against the pull of this nature to violate the law of the God in whose image were made. When we lose the battle, we may find ourselves committing ridiculously foolhardy deeds or selfish and immoral acts.
But more often I believe its our inherent curiosity, rather than our sinful nature, that makes us want to lick the frozen flagpole. After all, God created us with imagination and an adventurous spirit (some more adventurous than others!). And these parts of our makeup have nothing to do with evil. Theyre part of the marvelous zest for life we got at birth. And in these cases, licking that flagpole may seem stupid to others, but to us its more like a lesson in life. Were curious. We try it. And we learn from the experience without killing ourselves or anyone else or losing too much blood.
Human curiosity is apparent from our earliest days on earth. Just think how youngsters are fascinated by a hot stove. Tell them, No, dont touch. Hot! and they stand staring at it in curious wonder, drawn by its strange appeal. How hot? they wonder. Hot enough to melt my plastic horse? Hot enough to make the pages of my book turn black? Hot enough to . . . They want to touch it.
Later the same youngsters wonder what will happen if they shove the tweezers in the electrical outlet. They watch Superman movies and wonder what its like to fly. So they wrap a dishtowel around their necks, strip down to their Fruit of the Looms, and jump off the dining room table.
A few years later, as curious adolescents, they sneak out behind the barn and make cigarettes out of cedar bark wrapped in brown paper torn from a grocery sack. Or they somehow get possession of a cheap, fat cigar and light up. They dont want to become nicotine-addicted smokers. Theyre just curious, thats all. And the cigar isnt so bad at first. But ten minutes later, their stomachs are churning, and theyre running for Mama.
Then kids grow up and wonder what its like to jump out of an airplane, climb a mountain, or go scuba diving. They hitchhike around Europe or sail around the world. Sometimes curiosity leads folks to do things no one else can understand. They just seem like good ideas at the time. And later they give us memories that warm us and make us smile.
Heres an example: You might be surprised to learn that I own a Honda Gold Wing motorcycle. Im no Hells Angel, just a retired minister who enjoys roaring around curves doing fifty miles an hour at a forty-five degree angle, my hand on the throttle and the wind gliding over my helmet. It was curiosity that caused this glitch in my normally normal personality. I was thinking one day, Ive seen the world. Ive seen a good bit of America. But I havent seen my own state of Oklahoma. So I got out a state map and drew a line around the perimeter of the state, following the back roads. Riding my motorcycle, I stayed off the interstates and purred through the towns, seeing the sights and meeting the people. I took four days and three nights and drove 1,496 miles. What an experience! Pretty tame, I guess, compared with licking a frozen flagpole. But for me, it was quite a thrill.
I traveled a couple of times with the venerable Dr. Norman
Vincent Peale. He once told me, Never think age! Youll either say, Oh, Im too old for that (in which case youll miss out on a lot of lifes good things), or youll do all kinds of crazy things trying to look and act youngerand youll end up looking like a fool.
The secret is to go with your spirit, he told me. Make the most of every day. Take a few chances now and then and put a little excitement and adventure in your life. When curiosity consumes you, go ahead. Lick the frozen flagpole if you must. It may hurt a little. But what fun youll have later in the telling!
We are made in our Fathers image; there is God in each of us (see Gen. 1:26). And that bit of immortality in our beings may be the source that sparks our curiosity, causing us to explore exciting new horizons in this marvelous world he created for us. Dont wait till all the lights are green! Get out there and live right now, while a couple of them are still flashing yellow. Take some chances. Grab some dreams. Go back (or more accurately, step forward) and get that degree you almost finished. Write that book thats been swirling around inside your head. Start your own business. Buy that sports car. Build that house. Take that dream vacation.
If I had my life to live over, Id spend my money and my time a lot differently. Id own more toys, take more chances, step out on more adventures. Id love more deeply and freely.
Put Some Excitement in Your Spiritual Life
I cant live my whole life over, but I can still live whats left of it with a joyful attitude of enthusiasm. One of the ways I can add zest and excitement to my everyday existence is to add some adventures to my walk with God. Our relationship with the Father can be a spiritual skydive, a true mountaintop experience. After all, one of the most exciting verses of Scripture says,
Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.My ministry has been an adventure! I began preaching at age seventeen. After serving a couple of churches in Texas and Arkansas, my family and I were called to Australia. Just imagine it! We left the States hardly knowing how wed survive. But once we answered Gods call, the money and the sponsoring church just fell into place. What a thrilling thing Gods providence is!
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. (Isa. 40:31)
Then, after seven years of this adventure in the Land Down Under, we were called to help start a new church in Tulsa,
Oklahoma, and we were there until I retired from that work after twenty-six years, eight months, and six days. We saw that congregation grow from ninety-one people to more than twelve hundred. Our highest attendance on a special day reached almost five thousand worshipers! We also began an annual International Soul-Winning Workshop that continues to this day, attracting more than twelve thousand people from all over the world to the Tulsa Fairgrounds for the yearly event.
Did I say I had retired? Well, dont think that means Ive quit working! Ill never quit. God just transferred me to a different department. I now get to spend a month each year working in both Australia and South Africa. I do a weekly TV show, Peak of the Week Live! And I travel to churches and professional groups all over America participating in workshops and seminars.
Just God and Me
Through my work Ive learned how exciting the spiritual life can be. Its just God and me, out there on the cutting edge, one curious adventure after another. Just as I once wondered, What if we did a TV show, Lord? How could we do it? What would the format be? I can now feel curiosity leading me into other adventures of spreading the Gospel.
Im like the guy who said, I used to endure my Christianity; now Im enjoying it! And another who said, Im having a lot more fun on my way to heaven than I ever did on my way to hell!
You dont have to lick a frozen flagpole or respond to every triple-dog-dare that comes your way in order to live life with zest and enthusiasm. You dont have to skinny dip in the baptistry. But there are spiritual adventures out there, waiting to be experienced and enjoyed. There are people out there aching to be saved. And I know just the Guy to take along as your partner through the passage. Hes got quite a history of adventures in his own right. And when it comes to loyalty, hell love you like a Father.
Go on and live! Go with God.