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Archive for the category “A Short Trip To Hell”

Houston, We Have A Problem

“Houston, We have a problem” was originally uttered by Jack Swigert, an American astronaut, after he turned a switch on a routine procedure only to hear an explosion throughout the module.  On April 11, 1970 Apollo 13 launched.  It’s mission was to be the third time that men would land on the moon.  Interest in this particular mission waned as most thought it would be boring.  After all we’ve done this before and it was getting to be a routine after 2 successful trips.  All of that changed with one flick of a switch.

Jack Swigert.jpg

Originally Swigert wasn’t supposed to be on the mission at all.  He was a back up until Ken Mattingly was hurriedly replaced after he was unwittingly exposed to the German Measles.  Now seemingly something awful had gone wrong and Swigert was blaming himself that somehow he didn’t do the procedure right.  Mission Control was in a scramble as their controls were showing that the command modular was losing power.  They would have to act fast as not only the original mission was in danger but the lives of the three astronauts were suddenly at risk.  After putting their heads together Miission Control was guided by one of their top officers.  He persuaded the commander that instead of trying to land on the moon they needed to bring the astronauts home safely. The decision was based on the fact that they were losing oxygen and they had a limited amount of time before it would run out.

Everything was up in the air as they were making their decision of what to do next.  Meanwhile the interest on the ground was at a high level.  What had been originally thought of as a boring mission was now on the front pages.  It was decided that the original module would be discarded and the backup ship the undamaged Aquarius would be used even though it was only supposed to navigate the moon.  They would power it up as a lifeboat to get them home. Through the whole movie problems came up.  They had to power down all unnecessary conveniences so that they could have some power left.  That included the heating and they ended up in a very very cold place.  Through it all they solved problems.  One time the original ship was losing all kinds of oxygen.  Mission control had to simulate their situation.  Ken Mattingly who did not end up with the measles was called in.  He got in the simulator ship which was an exact model of what the astronauts were in.  The mission was to make something out of their supplies that they had to plug up the hole where oxygen was escaping.  Brilliantly they were able to do it on the ground and translate the information to the astronauts so they could make a similar piece.

Image result for apollo 13 movie pictures

All of the problems faced created an interesting and thrilling story.  When I watched the movie for the first time I tried to remember if things worked out.  Because it was based on the true story I knew they couldn’t wander too far from the truth.  I remembered one mission where they got killed at takeoff but obviously this wasn’t it. This particular mission did not stand out in my brain.  However I had a feeling that everything might turn out alright..  Of course I found myself cheering inside as problems that could have killed them all were conquered.  It was a story of guidance, love, and the spirit to survive.

Isn’t that the same spirit that we have as we live our lives on this earth?  There are going to be problems and we have to get through them.  The good news is that we can have communications with the Master of the Universe!  He knows how to get us through our problems and bring us home in victory!

At the end there was one final test.  Would the ship survive re-entry into earths atmosphere?  They always talked about the angle that the ship had to come in. The angle was a little off and it was feared that it could burn up.  That fear was kept from the astronauts because there was nothing they could do about it anyway.  They had it timed that once they lost communications they should gain it back in like 2 minutes.  If they didn’t hear from them by then the chances they wouldn’t increased.  Two minutes came and went and Mission Control was a somber place. They kept trying to communicate but no words were coming back.  There was fear all around as the time went over 3 minutes and ticking.  When everything seemed lost the static in the radio started to clear. “Houston, This is Aquarius”, Tom Hanks the actor said as he brilliantly portrayed Jim Lovell the astronaut.  Cheers rang up in Mission Control and all over the country!

Image result for apollo 13 astronauts getting rescued

I have watched this movie many times.  It is one that when I see it is on I get involved with again.  Each time it brings tears to my eyes as I see their struggles and ultimate victory!  I don’t think I would be so apt to watch it if it ended in disaster.  Since it is such a good ending I am always rapped up in seeing it again.  That is how it is with your life and mine.  We are going to have problems while we are here but rest assured God is bigger than our problems.  We can be comforted to know that our story will have a happy ending.  We can go through our problems knowing that they will come to pass and that we will make it through our fiery tests.  Are you going through trials and tribulations right now?  Remember that this is what is making your story interesting.  The saying goes “Without a test there is no testimony!”  Be joyous in your tests knowing that everything turns out all right.  How do we know?   We know because we have been told the glorious ending of our movie!

Image result for apollo 13 astronauts getting rescued

 

#10 Days Of The Living Dead

Going to a movie only because we were given free tickets years ago brought this story and the memory of Dawn of the Dead.

https://lightenload.wordpress.com/2018/11/23/days-of-the-living-dead/

Dawn of the Dead original VHS box cover art.

Along For The Ride

We hear the words when someone is explaining a complex problem that we are having trouble understanding.  In the step by step process the instructor might see a confused look on our face.  That is the time that they will ask “Are you still with me?”  It’s a helpful question.  If we are confused it isn’t a good idea to keep going on.  It is better to go back to the place where the connection was lost.  Perhaps it was step three where it became foggy and the instructor has already completed step four.  If step three was foggy step four probably found us in the dark.  Sometimes it becomes clear that we are still with them by our actions.  Perhaps we are following along and the instructor knows that we get it.  It’s when that blank stare occurs or we get very quiet that the instructor knows something is wrong and the “Are you still with me?” question comes.

Teacher explaining difficult problem to student

My mom, dad, and sister were in the car making the trip from Michigan to Alabama or Alabama to Michigan.  I’m not sure if they were coming or going.  My sister was just a toddler and I wasn’t around yet.  Up ahead on the side of the road was a hitchhiker.  I don’t know why but my dad had a soft heart for hitchhikers.  I remember many times he picked them up when we were on our long trip.  My dad was from Alabama and at least once a year and possibly two times we were on the road either going to or departing from his beloved hometown.  He picked up hitchhikers often but this one episode before my time stood out.  Even though I wasn’t there I heard about it many times.  They picked the hitchhiker up and resumed their journey.  He was a young man and was glad to get a ride.  It wasn’t very long afterwards that something happened that put their lives in danger.  Without warning as dad was driving to his alarm the gas pedal got stuck.  The car raced upwards of 100 miles an hour and as you can imagine fear  was everywhere.  Without warning not only was my family at risk but also the stranger hitchhiker who was just along for the ride.

Image result for picture of a hitchhiker

It’s interesting how so many are just along for the ride.  Moses discovered this when he was trying to lead the Israelite’s to the promised land.  It just so happened that many of the group were not the original group.  They were just followers who were going along for the ride.  These were the ones that first started to complain.  It can be dangerous the bigger the following is.  The danger comes in the new group who doesn’t have a real stake in the original mission.  They just saw something happening and thought that they liked being in the middle of the action.  When things don’t go as they expect however, these are the people that let it be known they are unhappy.  This unhappiness resulted in poison for the rest of the group.  A rebellion was started and it wasn’t only the new people that were complaining.  Although they started it many of the originals joined them.  As Moses was hearing their complaints he asked the question “Who is with me?”  He wanted to know who had the courage to march on through difficulties and who was only there to discourage and rebel?

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This whole Moses scenario is an example of why we need to choose our friends wisely.  If you think about it many of our friends are friends in thick and thin while many others may be just along for the ride.  When times go bad and you really want to count on them they cannot be found or will make excuses not to get involved.  Those are the people that sign up for the benefits but not for the bad things that invariably will come.  It is like taking the wedding vow “for better or for worse” and changing it to “for better but not for worse.”

Truth be known all of us at one point or another are along for the ride.  We may become Christians with the idea that “I’ve tried everything else, I might as well give this a try.”  That is fine and good until troubles come our way.  Sooner or later they will and that is when people start blaming God.  Just like the Israelite’s we can get pulled in the other direction and it is a reason that people get off of the heaven train.  Discouragement can come when expectations are not seemingly met and we have “friends” pulling us in the wrong direction.  It is in these hard times that God will ask us just like Moses asked “Are you still with me?”

The way that we can tell if we are with God is not in our words but our actions.  Our actions are why God is asking us the question in the first place.  You see it is not natural for Christians to stop growing any more than it is not natural for a baby to stop growing.  When the baby is healthy then it is expected that it will grow big and strong.  When this is not happening parents are concerned and a doctor visit is soon arranged.  God knows why there can be a stunt in our growth.  Jesus said that he is the way, the truth and the life.  Nobody can get to Heaven without him.  Many though are just along for the ride without any commitment or appearance of taking a side.  God shouldn’t have to ask us “Are you still with me?”  If we are truly committed our actions will speak much louder than our words!

The car was speeding upwards of 100 miles an hour.  Dad was yelling in horror and mom was trying to pull the gas pedal free to no avail.  Suddenly without warning the hitchhiker in the back dove over the seat head first almost knocking mom out of the way.  He pulled with all of his strength and was able to free the gas pedal up from it’s stuck position.  I’m sure there were many thank yous as that hitchhiker who was just along for the ride became a hero.  I’m sure it wasn’t that long before the hitchhiker was dropped off to find another ride.  Somewhere along the way their destinations came into conflict.  Yet in spite of the short time he was with them his heroics were told over and over.  His act became legendary to them.   He was with them not only in body but also in his heroic actions.  His quick actions are the reason you are reading this today because without his efforts there would not be me.  His story illustrated exactly what God wants us to be.  Not only along for the ride but making a difference in the time we are here!

 

 

 

 

 

Days Of The Living Dead

In 1978 I got a call from my sister.  Apparently my cousin had two tickets she wasn’t going to use for a movie called Dawn Of The Dead.  My girlfriend and future wife ended up going to the movie which proved to be a chilling experience.  This was actually a continuation of a story that was written in 1968 called Night Of The Living Dead.  Anyway they are both movies about dead people coming back to life and becoming flesh eating Zombies.  Apparently the only way these Zombies could keep living was to eat living people or to put it simply people who were not Zombies.  Of course these Zombies were hard to kill probably because they were already dead.  They moved around slowly in a very deliberate and snail like zombie walk shuffling in a forward path.  They had no purpose except to find people who were alive and eat them.

Painted theatrical release that includes various credits, an ominous zombie looking over the horizon, and the words "Dawn of the Dead" in military print below.

These movies were stories of surviving created by George A. Romero.  The first one Night Of The Living Dead followed living people taking refuge in an old farmhouse trying to stay safe from the blood thirsty Zombies that had caused panic throughout the nation.  The one we saw Dawn Of The Dead had the same theme except we followed people who took refuge in a mall that had been abandoned probably because of the Zombie dilemma.  So we are placed in the middle of the Zombie invasion.  We don’t really know why it is happening we just see the results.  There is plenty of time to speculate as we are taking refuge in these buildings.  Let’s make no mistake about it.  When watching these movies we become the living characters in the movie.  What would we do in these situations they find themselves in?  This is the intended feeling that Romero wants to portray.  This is why they are called horror films.  They don’t really have to make sense.  There is really no explanation needed for why the Zombies exist.  Although there is a lot of speculation the fact is they are there and they are threatening our lives and our survival.

Dawn of the Dead original VHS box cover art.

In each of the films the Zombie invasion is a growing enemy.  You see when the Zombie bites a living person that person eventually dies and in a little while becomes one of the Zombies.  I’m not really sure how long it takes.  We see people getting attacked by Zombies and later those same people are Zombies themselves.  So obviously it is a growing problem.  If the Zombie invasion was a few random Zombies they could be destroyed and the movie would end.  However with this growing problem it is almost hard to keep track of if we saw a person die first before they became a Zombie.

It’s interesting to analyze the characteristics of the Zombies in each of the first two movies.  The Zombies have no purpose other than to eat living people.  They move slowly but are able to keep moving and never tire out.  They are devoid of any real personality although they can think.  They can keep going even after being gravely injured as long as their brain remains intact.  They never quit in their pursuit of the living.  They have learning experiences similar to that of a toddler.  They only show emotions after a long period of experience and training.  The other thing about Zombies in the first two movies was that they feared fire.  It was never really explained why they feared the flame but it was a way to make them retreat.  Most of all they could only live at the expense of others.  By tearing living people down they got stronger as they destroyed the living and converted them into Zombies like them.  The movie ends with the two main living characters escaping in a partially fueled helicopter to an uncertain future.

George A. Romero

Did you know that most people in the world today are Zombies?  Oh you might think I have jumped off the deep end but let me explain.  Of course we don’t see them moving in the Zombie walk physically but what about spiritually?  John 10:10 states (and this is Jesus talking) The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  I John 5:12 tells us Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.  Jesus said in John 7:37 “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! 38 Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”  but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:14

The Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 2 verses 1-10 states  As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

So what can we learn from the Bible verses above?  We see that Jesus is the giver of life and apart from him we are dead.  We see that if we drink of the living water (Jesus) we will thirst no more.  That thirst he is talking about is something in every person.  It is a desire to have purpose in life and a reason to exist.  Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”  John 18:12.  John 3:19 tells us that “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.  The same is true today.  Like the Zombies fear of fire many don’t want anything to do with the light of the world that Jesus is.  They would rather reject the light and walk in darkness.  Instead of living in the darkness there is a way to escape.  Unlike the helicopter escape the characters in the movie did this escape instantly transforms us from dead to living.  This escape gives us peace and takes us to a certain future.  That future is eventually a heavenly home full of love!

If you have not accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior you are literally spiritually dead.  You are walking around with no deep purpose in life.   If you would be honest you would admit that you are totally empty.  You would admit that spiritually you are dead and are a walking Zombie.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Jesus came to give life and give it more abundantly.  Accept him into your heart today with this simple prayer.

Lord Jesus, Come into my heart and save me.  Forgive me of my sins and be my Lord and Savior.   Amen  It’s a simple prayer but if you are sincere he will come into your being and give you life and purpose!  Your escape from a dead meaningless life will be propelled by the God of the Universe who has the power to set you free and give you victory and peace forever and ever!

Sleeping In The Hotel Doorway

I used to play one of the late Jim Croce’s songs on my guitar and my mom would say it reminded her of one of my friends named Wayne.  Wayne was on his own but always finding himself in unfortunate situations.  Anyway the song’s title is Box #10 and it was on Croce’s “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” album.  The thing about this song was that it wasn’t a big hit.  It was almost like Croce put the song in there to fill the album up.  Yet that song said a lot about how things go wrong when we are not connected to God.  Here is the lyrics and the chorus.

“Box #10” Lyrics

Jim Croce

Well out of Southern Illinois
Come a down-home country boy
He gonna make it in the city
Playin’ guitar in the studio
Well he hadn’t been there an hour
When he met a Broadway flower
You know she took him for his money
And she left him in a cheap hotel
Well it’s easy for you to see
That that country boy was me
Say and how am I ever gonna
Break the news to the folks back home?
I was gonna be a great success
Things sure ended up a mess
But in the process I got messed up too
Hello momma and dad I had to call collect
‘Cause I ain’t got a cent to my name
Well I’m sleepin’ in a hotel doorway
And tonight they say it’s gonna rain
And if you’d only send me some money
I’ll be back on my feet again
Send it in care of the Sunday Mission
Box Number Ten
Well back in Southern Illinois
They still worryin’ ’bout their boy
But this boy’s goin’ home
As soon as he gets the fare
But the minute I got my bread
I got a pipe upside my head
You know they left me in an alley
Took my money and my guitar too
Hello momma and dad I had to call collect
‘Cause I ain’t got a cent to my name
Well I’m sleepin’ in a hotel doorway
And tonight they say it’s gonna rain
And if you’d only send me some money
I’ll be back on my feet again
Send it in care of the Sunday Mission
Box Number Ten
Sometimes we tend to operate according to our own will and not the will of God.  When we do we are asking for trouble.  The person in the song had a dream of being famous.  His dream for himself probably wasn’t God’s plan for him. If you have a dream pray that it is in line with how God wants to use you.  Listen to his voice as he will let you know if you are on the right path.  The first step on God’s path is giving your whole life and everything you are or will be to him.  When you do you will be in perfect peace knowing that it is the right thing to do.  To the man in the songs dismay everything went bad and he regretfully had to call his mom and dad to rescue him.  This story is a perfect illustration of the parable of the prodigal son in the Bible.  The prodigal son took off on his own and humbly had to come back after all of his money was gone.  The man in the song also had to humble himself and seek help from his loving parents when there was nobody else to turn to.
The first time he made a mistake.  He blew his money on his own lusts and didn’t have it to use for his dream.  Sometimes when we find ourselves in our most defeated situations it is entirely our fault.  We are suffering the consequences for the actions that we took.  The second time unlucky circumstances worked against him.  There are times when for whatever reason things happen that are completely out of our control.  Whatever the cause we are right to go to our Heavenly Father to seek help.  Don’t let silly pride rob you of your victory!
Image result for poison ivy on person
I’m reminded of one summer when Wayne and I both got a bad case of poison Ivy.  Both of us were miserable.  I remember my mom reminding Wayne not to scratch it as she caught him in the act.  He didn’t even realize what he was doing.  We used this pink lotion stuff to relieve the itch.  The stuff would get hard and supposedly dry the poison ivy up.  The problem was it still left the unbearable itch.  Somehow we both survived our poison ivy attack that summer but there was much suffering.  Years later when I was a “mature” adult I got a bad case of poison ivy again.  Stubbornly I refused to go to the doctor.  I decided that I could get rid of the stuff myself.  After about 3 weeks the poison ivy was all over me and I decided to go to the doctor at long last.  The doctor looked at me and said “what have you been in?”  He gave me some pills and within 2 days all of the poison ivy was gone!
Image result for hotel doorway
Unfortunately that is how we are with God at times.  We wait and suffer until as a last resort we come to him.  When we do he solves our problem and we wonder why we didn’t go to him in the first place.  The part of the song that really stands out to me is in the chorus he states “I’ve been sleeping in the hotel doorway, and tonight they say it’s gonna rain.”  That is how it is when we are trying to go it alone.  We are not protected from the snares that the enemy is throwing at us.  Instead of trying to live our lives on our own doesn’t it make sense to surrender it to God?  Like the parents in Illinois he is concerned about us and wants the best for us.  Instead of sleeping in the hotel doorway he wants us to have the best suite in the hotel!  All we have to do is ask!  If you have been spiritually sleeping in the hotel doorway repeat this simple prayer with me.
Lord Jesus,
Please forgive me of my sins and save me
Come into my heart and make me whole
Take me from this life of sin and give me hope
Make me a new person in you
Be my Lord and Savior
Amen
If you prayed that prayer with me you will feel a wonderful peace in your heart.  That is the Holy Spirit making his presence in you!  Rejoice because your name is written in heaven and you will never have to sleep in the hotel doorway again!

The Lost And Found

Nikki was a tall skinny old dog on that fateful day.  He was an eleven year old Siberian Husky who had a pretty easy life.  It consisted of going from his pen to the house, sleeping a lot, eating, catching his ring or ball, and like most dogs begging for food. He would sit there if I was eating something he wanted, (which was everything) and attempt to do his favorite trick.  That trick was shaking hands.  So Nikki would attempt the paw shake even if it wasn’t asked for to try to please and get the treat. Once in awhile we would take Nikki for a walk.  He got all excited and started barking and whining uncontrollably at the very sight of his leash in our hands.  It could not be argued what a good life he had through the years, but one day Nikki wandered away.

At first we didn’t realize that Nikki was gone.  He spent a lot of time in his pen outside.  If he wanted to come in he would whine at the door after walking through the garage that the pen was connected to.  I don’t remember how he got out.  Perhaps the garage door was accidentally left open.  Perhaps his gate door was ajar.  However it happened Nikki was gone.  It was a Sunday in the middle of the summer that we discovered him missing.  I’m sure he enjoyed his freedom.  Even on the walks we took him on he was confined by that leash.  Now he could wander wherever he wanted with nobody pulling on his neck to come back.  I’m sure it was fun for awhile.  Going to places he only dreamed about and all of the scents that dogs invariably smell.  Perhaps other dogs barked as they realized that this big dog was free and they were trapped in their house or yard.  That’s the envy of the other dogs looking out I’m sure.  Barking to threaten the straying dog to get out of their territory, yet realizing that there is nothing they can do about it.

The hours passed and still no Nikki.  This had never happened before and we didn’t know what to do.  We drove around and looked.  With the window down we called out his name “Nikki, Nikki’, but there was no response.  It was getting dark and we were worried.  Our street is not a busy one but the road connected to it is.  If he had wandered into that busy road he could have been hit.  There were many directions he could have gone.  He could have headed west which would have him walking along the busy street.  He could have crossed the busy street and found his way to Parkview Hills which is a Condominium Community.  He could have wandered east and either kept going on the busy road or cut off north into the Winchell neighborhood.  Not knowing where to look we drove all over and kept an eye on the side of the road in case the ultimate tragedy had occurred.

Reluctantly we gave up the search for the night.  It was dark and we had traveled down all of the paths we could think of.  Once again we were devastated when he wasn’t home to greet us when we got back.  We couldn’t think of anything else to do but wait.  Maybe he would show up during the night.  The fear thoughts kept entering our minds.  Maybe he was lying by the side of the road hurt and couldn’t make it home.  Maybe Nikki would never come home again.  Sadly we were trying to prepare for the worst.

I remember back in elementary school.  When something got lost they had a lost and found in the principal’s office.  There were times I came home without a glove or something.  My mom would encourage me to go to the lost and found.  In the office was a big box.  It seemed like hundreds of gloves, hats, and scarves were there.  Also in the mix was my lost glove.  It would have been nice if it were that easy to get Nikki back.  I do remember as a kid we had a dog named Happy.  Happy found himself in the dog pound many times after getting caught wandering away from our house by the dog catcher.  My sister would be crying and dad reluctantly would go and pay the fine to get him back.  Dad always said “I should have just left him in there”, but deep down I know he wanted him back too.

There is a story in the Bible that resembles Nikki’s situation.  It is the story of the prodigal son.  One day the younger son decided that he wanted to see what life was like without being under his father’s rule.  He would taste the fun stuff that he wasn’t allowed to experience.  He asked and was granted his inheritance which allowed him to go out on his own and eat, drink, and be merry.  All went well for the prodigal son until his money ran out. Suddenly he found that when the money was gone so were his so called friends.  He was left to make his own way working in a field with someone’s pigs.  At that point he came to his senses and made his way home.  He would tell his father he was not worthy to be his son anymore and ask for a job in his field.  His father had other ideas when he saw him coming.  He was restored as his son and his father held a big party for him!  Unfortunately Nikki didn’t wander home that night.  If he did like the prodigal son we would have celebrated.  Perhaps we would have bought him a special treat!  Those thoughts seemed like only dreams as the hours passed.

The next morning I didn’t go to work.  I called and told them that I was going to be late.  I mentioned that our dog was missing and I would be in if and when I found him.  Driving around in my Camaro with the window down I kept yelling for Nikki.  Once again there was no response.  I did happen to pass people on the way who were out walking.  With everyone I passed I described our missing dog and left our phone number.  That morning I drove all over leaving our number to anyone that I saw.  It was extremely hot as the temperatures that day hovered between 90 and 100 degrees.  If Nikki were alive the heat alone might be enough to be his end.  Totally dejected and very hot myself I went back home to rest and consider my next move.

Perhaps you are in a place right now like Nikki and the prodigal son were.  Perhaps the grass looked greener on the other side and you left God to find those greener pastures.  Maybe you found out like they did that the world is a harsh place.  Maybe the curiosity has gotten old and you have discovered like they did that what you ran away from was love.  Sometimes when we reach our lowest point we discover things about who we are and what we need to do.  Know that God loves you and is calling you to come home much like we were calling for Nikki.

As I was resting at home from the torturous heat the phone rang.  The lady on the other end told me that she thought she found my dog.  She gave me directions in the Winchell Neighborhood where she had seen a dog that matched my description.  Hurriedly I jumped in the car and took off to the destination about a mile away.  From a distance I saw him in the front yard of a house.  A lady was out there with him and she had provided him with a big bowl of water.  As I think about her  kind deed  it was like the Bible verses in Matthew Chapter 25 within the verses of 35-40. “When I was hungry you fed me and when I was thirsty you gave me something to drink.  Later the righteous ones asked when they did those things and he answered “when you did it to the least of these you did it onto me.”

Nikki didn’t see me at first.  He had his head in that bowl and he was drinking like there was no tomorrow.  I pulled up, jumped out of my car and called his name.  He took his head out of the water dish long enough to look at me.  He looked ragged and confused.  I could tell from his look that he hardly recognized me.  The lady wondered if this was my dog and I told her yes and briefly explained what happened.  Nikki still seemed in a daze but I coaxed him into the back of my car.
It took a few days to recover but Nikki slowly came back to himself.  There was a day a short time later that we  accidentally left the garage door opened.  Fearfully we looked in his pen only to find Nikki laying on the cold cement content with life and with no desire to wander away.  Nikki lived for three more years and never ran away again.

Victory Beyond The Old One Two

He was an angry man.  Had he won that fight he would have forced Mohammad Ali to fight him again and he could get his title back.  George Foreman didn’t call it the Heavyweight Title, he called it his title.  The year was 1977 and George Foreman had been on the comeback trail.  He had won five consecutive fights and that night he fought a man named Jimmy Young.  George had a devastating punch.  Usually his fights would end with his opponent on the canvas.  This fight would be different.  Jimmy Young lasted the whole fight.  When the decision was read it was Young who had his glove raised.  George was crushed as he walked around in the steamy hot dressing room.  He had heard that after a match you should never sit down.  He paced back and forth and felt weakness in his legs.  “I feel like I’m going to”, and before he could say die he passed out.

George Foreman at a joyless time in his life.

George Foreman was born in Marshall Texas in 1949 and grew up in Houston’s rough Fifth Ward District.  Looking back he called himself a thug as he dropped out of school in the ninth grade, and ran the streets.  In 1965 he joined the Jobs Corps and that decision changed the direction of his life.  At the age of 16 the Jobs Corps provided him with a connection to the boxing world.  It was in a trainer named Doc Broaddus.  Doc encouraged George to apply his fighting skills to the ring instead of the streets.

George developed quickly as a boxer.  He had a mean streak that seemed to help him when he got his opponent in trouble.  He was always able to summon the old one two at just the right time.  He made the 1968 Olympic team and after winning the gold medal he made headlines waiving a little American flag.  This was the Olympic games where two African American runners raised clinched fists wearing black gloves in tribute to black power.  In contrast George’s waiving of the American flag made the statement that he was proud of the country he represented.
After the Olympics George turned pro.  There was much learning to do but he rose in the ranks with each success.  George was 6 feet 3 1/2 inches and 218 pounds of raw muscle.  He was feared by everyone he fought because of his ability to pound his opponents unmercifully to the canvas. He won his first 37 professional fights which earned him a shot at the heavyweight champion “Smokin” Joe Frazier.  It was 1973 and George was a heavy underdog.   The fight was held January 22, 1973, in Kingston Jamaica.  Shockingly George knocked  Joe Frazier down six times in the two round fight.  Finally the referee stopped the bout and George’s glove was raised in victory.
The next two fights were more of the same for George.  He knocked out Jose (King) Roman in one round and Kenny Norton in two rounds.  He was on top of the boxing world and didn’t think he could be beaten.  Gladly he accepted the challenge of Mohammad Ali.  Ali had been the heavyweight champion before being stripped of his title for refusing to go into the army.  He was finally reinstated to boxing after 3 and a half years and lost his attempt to regain the title from Joe Frazier in 1971.  Now it was 1974 and George didn’t think he could possibly lose.  After all he was destroying everyone in his path in one or two rounds.The bout was held in Zaire South Africa and was billed “The Rumble In The Jungle”.  George came out strong like he always did.  Charging and bulling his way in he continuously got Ali on the ropes.  Ali was different than any opponent he had ever faced however.  When George hit Ali with his best shots Ali would talk to George.  “Is that all you got George?”, he repeated over and over.  George continued to be the aggressor but Ali kept George off balance with his speedy jabs later in the rounds.  Ali started laying on the ropes and inviting George to come and take his best shots.  George did not hesitate and once again he kept hearing Ali talking.  “Is that all you got George?”  In his head George had the thought that wouldn’t go away.  “Yep that’s about it.”  It was a close fight but by the 8th round George was spent.  He wasn’t used to going more than two rounds in his bouts and here Ali was still strong as the 8th round was coming to a close.  Suddenly Ali hit George with a punch to the back of the head and with lightning speed he hit him two more times.  George felt himself dropping to the mat and realized the referee was counting him out.  At the count of 9 George was on his feet but the referee stopped the fight and declared Ali the winner by knockout.It was an embarrassing loss to George and it took him awhile before he laced the gloves up again.  He was bitter at Ali and bitter at a lot of people that he felt did him wrong.  His anger was so deep that he couldn’t figure out a way to hurt all of the people that were burning in his heart.  He took his anger out on his opponents and after not fighting at all in 1975 he had four bouts in 1976 winning all of them in short order.  By 1977 George was being talked about again for another title shot.  Ali had been able to keep the title that he won from George.  George was matched against Pedro Agosto in January of 1977 and won by a first round knockout.  The fight with Jimmy Young was made and George felt that it would be the warmup he needed
before facing Ali again.Jimmy Young was a fighter much like Ali.  He was a very good defensive fighter who had quick hands.  George plowed in determined to hit Jimmy Young with the hay maker that would stop the fight.  Jimmy was able to block George’s attempts again and again and jab his head with a pestering left.  Round after round the same thing happened.  George charging in only to get sent away by Jimmy’s quick hands.  In the 7th round something different happened.  George plowed in as usual but this time he connected.  Jimmy was hurt and staggered to the other side of the ring.  George was right after him determined to put Jimmy on the canvas for good.  Somehow in his hurt condition Jimmy was able to block and duck most of George’s attempts.  George was always able to finish off an opponent when he had them hurt.  He could always count on the old one two, but this time victory would not come.  Adding to his frustration the fans started chanting loudly “Jimmy Young, Jimmy Young.”  George wondered why the fans wouldn’t chant for him?  Jimmy recovered and for the rest of the fight was able to pile up points as George punched a lot of air.
When George was on that dressing room floor he had an encounter like never before.  He felt like he was in this empty place and that the Lord spoke to him.  The Lord said, “I don’t want your money, I want you.”  When he came to he was shouting “Jesus Christ is alive in me”.  George retired at the age of 27 and went into ministry full time.  He formed an independent church and lived each day for the Lord.  All of the bitterness that he had kept inside started to go away.  His heart was full of love as he forgave Ali and everyone else that had been on his hate list.

In 1987 George had a desire in his heart.  He had ballooned up to 315 pounds but the unmistakable desire was there.  He decided to get back into boxing.  He was old now in boxing terms at 38.  Yet it was almost like God had given him the desire to complete the work he had started.  George started winning boxing matches again.  He was big and slow but he still packed a wallop.  George trained hard and got his weight down to 250.  Although he wasn’t the fighter he was he became very popular wherever he fought.  In a drastic switch George was the fan favorite.  Because of his popularity fans wanted to see George fight for the heavyweight title.  Evander Holyfield had the title and gave George a fight.  George fought gallantly but it wasn’t to be.  Evander kept his title that night. 
George persevered however and kept fighting.  At the age of 45 he was given another chance.  The boxing world scoffed at George.  He doesn’t deserve a chance they thought.  Michael Moorer was the Heavyweight champion.  He was a week short of his 27th birthday while George was 45.  It looked like an easy payday for Moorer as he was much quicker than the slow moving Foreman.  The bout played out that way too.  Through the first nine rounds Moore was able to use his speed to beat George consistently to the punch.  He was winning handily on all cards as the 10th round started.  Then out of the blue George connected and connected again.  Michael Moorer went down and was counted out.  George walked slowly back to his corner and landed on his knees.  In front of the whole boxing world he was giving thanks to his God for completing a chapter in his destiny!When you see George Foreman today there is always a smile on his face.  There is joy in his heart where there used to be hate.  It is hard to believe he is the same person.  He has been very successful in business after leaving the ring.  He has been a spokesman for the George Foreman grill for years.  You have seen him no doubt on commercials and his joy is contagious.  He made 200 million dollars from Salton Inc. to use his name to promote the grill.  That was substantially more than he ever made in boxing.  In looking back George is quick to acknowledge that his defeats were the best things to ever happen to him.  “I needed to suffer those defeats so I could hit  bottom and look up”, George stated.    He also adds some advice that we all can use.  “Just take one step at a time, trusting that God still has a plan for you, and he will make the best of your situation.”

A Change Of Heart

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Dr. Mugisha must be some kind of a quack, Lydia thought as she left his office.  The system is set up to take money from the foreigners.  Lydia was in a foreign land attending college at Makerere University Uganda’s largest and third oldest university.  Lydia was from Kitale, Kenya an agricultural city high in the Kenyan mountains.  She had big dreams and hoped that the “Ivory Tower” would help her fulfill them.  Although Lydia had a strong desire to succeed something was fighting against her.  It was her ability to breathe especially after the slightest exertion.  Although she sometimes struggled in the daytime the nights were her nightmare.

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This was not the way it was supposed to be.  Lydia was from a land of high elevation.  She was skinny and looked to be in perfect health.  In fact she was too skinny and did her best to eat plenty on her quest to gain weight.  Her friends kidded her about her inability to climb mountains without going into a coughing frenzy. Coming from such a high elevation she was expected to swallow those mountains like milk as she put it.   It was embarrassing to her to be out of breath when her friends easily endured the journey.  Lydia was a Christian and her Christian group would pray with her about her health.  She wondered what was going on and why was she being put through this suffering?  It was terrible suffering too.  Lydia continuously had to climb hills wherever she went. “I hated climbing those hills. They sucked my strength and drained all energies off my joints. I would pant hard and gasp for breath, my chest would burn up and it left me very congested….I was ashamed but would hide all these things and try to catch up like a real champion.”  After climbing the hills there was the strain of climbing the steps to her apartment.  She lived on the second floor and climbing those steps left her completely in agony.  When she arrived she would be coughing out of control.  Naturally her roommate was alarmed as she was awoken from a sound sleep. ” Lydia,why don’t you see a doctor? You coughed really bad last night.”, Lucy would say the following morning cajoling her.
“This would bring my worst fear alive.” Often Lydia would have nosebleeds and cough up blood.  There was something seriously wrong and Lydia was sure she knew what it was.  It has to be Tuberculosis and she cringed at the thought of the treatment involved.  Lydia loathed taking pills and the remedy seemed to be to take these pills for 8 straight months without fail.  If for some reason the pills were not taken she would have to start all over.  It was a terrible thought for her and kept her from seeing a doctor.  She tried over the counter medicine for the flu thinking that would help.  After class one day she decided she couldn’t go on any longer.  Entering the University medical center she met Dr. Mugisha.

Dr. Mugisha was a dark, calm, middle aged doctor.  Lydia quickly explained to him her chest pains and coughing and added that she had the flu.  His method was pretty routine and out of date in Lydia’s mind.  He had a stethoscope and he listened to her heartbeat.  He also looked at her tongue. He asked two or three questions and that was it.  With that short examination Dr. Mugisha had his diagnosis.  In her own words the following is lydia’s story of what happened next.

“He sat down, took off his glasses , looked me in the eye and told me”, she explained, and then came the words she would never forget.  “With no doubt and from my experience, your heart is leaking. Your heartbeat shows that you have a heart problem.”

Lydia listened in disbelief. “I thought I didn’t hear him well. He continued telling me that I wasn’t adding any weight because my heart was using all the energy I had to work extra hard to support my life. He went on and on noting that the heart was the strongest muscle in the body and would be the last organ of the body to wear out. I just listened. He strongly recommended that I go for further tests first thing the following morning. He followed it up with a referral letter to Ward C, Mulago Heart Institute. He finally scribbled a long prescription of food supplements that I should buy.”

“As soon as he finished, I thanked him and left the room” “I walked lazily back to my hostel with my mind replaying all the doctor had said. I laughed! It was impossible! How could a tiny, skinny girl like me have a heart disease? There was no way! And how could he even direct me to his pharmacy to purchase very expensive drugs? I knew he was the type that made money out of unsuspecting patients, foreigners for that matter.”  “He is one of them.” I mused.

Lydia continued to go to prayer meetings hoping that she would get better through her faith. “There was no way I would believe the doctor! How could he use only a stethoscope and tell me my heart was leaking? And what would make my heart leak or sick for that matter? I wasn’t fat! Heart diseases were for fat, rich and obese people not skinny people like me!”  Lydia kept that attitude and she also was very secretive about the doctors diagnosis.  She did confide in a few friends and one of them was named Eric.  Eric was a leader in the Kenyan fellowship group and he was very concerned about Lydia.

“Lydia I know behind that beautiful smile you are hiding a lot.” He had told me very playfully one day. I don’t know what pushed me, but that evening I rang Eric to inform him of what the doctor had said. That evening he made sure he visited me in my room even though it was quite a distant location from where he stayed.  “Lydia, with the way you have been coughing and crying of weak joints when I walk with you, you’ve got to listen to the doctor.” Eric said softly but firmly.”But….” “No buts Lydia!” He cut me short and authoritatively told me that the first thing the following day we would be going to the Mulago Heart Institute. I feared Eric, but also admired and respected him inwardly, for his leadership qualities. He was stern but calm. I did not have any money with me but I did not say it either. I obeyed him.

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Eric and I quite easily found our way to Ward C of the enormous Mulago Hospital at about 7.45am that Tuesday Morning. There were a number of patients at the Heart Institute for such a morning! Some looked frail and really in bad shape. I cowed inside but bravely reached our way to the reception area.  After a few introductions here and there and with our referral letter from the University Hospital, we were told the Cardiologist whom Dr. Mugisha had suggested we see was in. We were directed to the Accounts where Eric paid the Ugx20,000. I was humbled. I had not told him that I didn’t have money. We then waited on the queue to see the cardiologist whose name mysteriously slipped out of my mind! It did not take long before we were in his office. Eric was like a father to me.  The cardiologist read through the referral letter and begun to take in my details. “What is your name?” He asked. “Jerotich Lydia.” I replied
“You come from Kenya, right?” He pried.  “Yes doctor.” I replied obediently. He took his telephone and called in the Accountant. When the Accountant came in he asked him why he had undercharged me for the Consultation fees and yet I was a foreigner. He continued that when ‘they’ visited our hospitals in Kenya for treatment, they were charged more. The cardiologist wrote down the Echo test that was to cost Ugx75,000 and the ECG test that was to cost Ugx50,000. We were dumb founded for a while, thanked him and left with the Accountant. The Accountant told us that we had to add Ugx25,000 on to the Ugx20,000 we had paid earlier for consultation! This was absurd! We were just students! We were not big business men! We promised to be back soon for the tests though and that we would top up the remaining Consultation fees. We left in a huff like a girl suffering from acute jealousy. We walked quietly back to college. Eric had a class to catch up with. I thanked him for his kindness and thoughtful sacrifice. He encouraged and motivated me and we parted ways. I was left all alone. My mind reeled from side to side. It was like I was dreaming. I did not know what or who to believe. Nothing made meaning. I walked slowly and very slowly to my residence smiling outwardly to those who greeted me on the way yet mourning deep within me. What had died? Why did people have to ‘milk’ others without caring about their backgrounds? Why would Dr. Mugisha send me to a fraud? I was right. It was all about getting money from the foreigner. “To hell with heart diseases! This is not my disease! It is for the rich and fat, not me.”

2008 passed by quite slowly. One of the toughest years for me. My health affected every area of my life. I was coughing blood! I was too weak. I was too absent minded! But I kept smiling and trying. Church was my best friend. There was hope there. There were smiles there. There were activities that kept me living there. I tried to belong there. But I could not share my plight with anyone. When I went home for holidays, I lightly joked about what Dr. Mugisha had said about my heart. My mum rebuked such evil thoughts of her daughter. Life went on as usual at home very slowly and roughly for me. I faithfully fetched water from the stream downhill, went to the farm, fed the cows, and did all the chores expected of a lady my age at home. All my nights were nightmares. I longed for mornings as a mother longed to see her new born child.My late grandfather would not hesitate to ask me what was wrong with me as I coughed a lot. I feigned wellness and tried to smile convincingly. He would then warn me not to overwork myself. One morning in 2009, I had been really unwell. A few weeks earlier I had been admitted at the University Hospital for severe Malaria and chest congestion after I had ‘lost’ memory in a test (exam), was too frail and my Business Statistics Lecturer, Mr. Nazarius had driven me in his car from old Kampala Secondary school for medical attention at the university Hospital. Surprisingly, unlike other days, Dr. Mugisha was at the hospital that morning! He received me and the lecturer explained what had happened. Dr. Mugisha examined me, told the lecturer to buy for me Fanta Orange because the sugar would give me some energy. He then admitted me as my blood sample was being tested. I remained in the hospital for a week. Coincidentally, James, one of colleagues at the kenyan fellowship was admitted that very time too! He was in an isolated ward, admitted for TB! I would visit him anyway! I wanted to learn more about TB. Eventually James was fully treated and discharged. I was discharged later that weekend after pestering the nurses that I wanted to leave the hospital. My discharge report read, “Discharged with severe Malaria.”

I was baffled!  I looked stronger, I felt better! The report was not true! I was discharged on condition that I bought some antibiotics for the chest. They were expensive but I had missed my tests (exams), I had to.  Now, this morning I’m remembering, I was really feeling bad. I hadn’t put my head down the previous night. These past few days I had been coughing so bad and could not lie down flat!    Even 3 to 4 pillows propping my head and back were not working! This particular night I sat down the whole night as I could not breathe well when lying down. My new room mate Deborah was so worried. She had called all of the neighbors on our floor to come and watch over me.  I coughed up blood, so that morning, I had called Ruth my friend and homey. She escorted me to the University hospital. I was very determined! My mind was made up, I was going to face it and treat it, the Tubercuclosis! I told them I wanted to see Dr. Mugisha.  The man directed me to room 8. I met an elderly lady doctor at the hospital whose name I have sadly forgotten. I told her straight away that I had TB. She was humble and listened. She wanted to know what made me so sure? I explained my story. She sent me to the laboratory for my sputum to be tested. Some minutes later, she called  me back to her office. She explained that my chest was clear as crystal. There were no chest infections and I didn’t have TB! ! We were mesmerized! She then immediately sent me for a chest X-ray. It was my first time. I had heard that such rays were dangerous but I wanted this ‘thing’ known. I obeyed every instruction of the technician. All my upper clothes off, my back facing him about 10 meters afar, he did what he did best,  reassuring me that the rays would not harm me. He finished and Ruth and I waited. An hour or so later, my ‘mother’ doctor called. I went in to her office. She showed me the X-ray film and gently interpreted it to me. She said I had Cardiomegaly. The word was as big as I have just spelled it! I looked.  “Lydia, ” she patted my shoulder, “this is a condition that means that your heart is enlarged. As you can see here,” she pointed at the film, “your heart margins are bulged outwards.” I was lost in thought for a second, I was reminiscing…..So Dr. Mugisha had been right all along….He was indeed an expert! Only a stethoscope and he had figured it out! He was momentarily my hero! “Lydia,” my lady doctor brought me back to her, “you need to go to the Heart Institute at Mulago Hospital the first thing tomorrow morning for further tests to ascertain the cause of your heart’s enlargement and get treated immediately.” She wrote down the referral letter…Same things I had heard and seen a year. before….. If only I had listened to Dr. Mugisha then! She handed the referral to me. I thanked her with a
big smile and left her office. I met Ruth at the waiting bay and gave her a quick explanation. She nodded understandingly. We were very hungry. We walked back to the hostel. I was now determined, convinced, ready for whatever was ahead of me. An X-ray had given some light…My church remained my closest friend. I remained a year behind my colleagues in class.

Lydia felt like the doubting Thomas in the Bible.  She had seen with her own eyes the problem and now she believed!  Her open heart surgery was done successfully on September 5, 2012 in a ‘small’ Missionary Hospital-Tenwek Hospital in Rift Valley, Kenya. She had a valve replaced. Although it took awhile for Lydia to regain her strength healing came.  The big thing for her was to find out what the problem was. Once she grasped the problem and believed the diagnosis she was able to prepare herself for what was ahead. Although it was a tough road she was on board with what needed to be done.

Today Lydia couldn’t be happier. She has energy she never dreamed she could have! She didn’t get her degree from the university, yet has found favor from God as she is employed as an administrator at one of the universities in Rwanda!  She is able to serve her God and be a light to others because of the encouragement she is able to provide. A big burden has been lifted from her (literally a load off of her chest) and she is so grateful! She encourages people to not ignore their physical condition, but to seek help and get to the bottom of their problem. The Bible verse “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” John 8:32, certainly applies to her life and attitude today!

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Lydia’s plight reminds me of where we all are or were. Something was or is spiritually wrong in our lives. Something was or is terribly wrong with us and only by embracing the reality and accepting the diagnosis can we find healing. Lydia had a change of heart. She rejected the first diagnosis from Dr. Mugisha and lived with the consequences of that rejection. Only when she had more trouble and was given a second opinion did she discover the truth he conveyed. Perhaps you have rejected God’s salvation plan in the past. Perhaps you are ashamed of the life you are now living. No matter where you have been God is there for your healing. Maybe the scars that life has caused you are painful. You will not forget the pain but God will give you peace and a helpful heart to those going down the same path. At first after the surgery Lydia detested her scars. Now she has had a change of heart. “I love my scars, they tell a story”, she proclaims “They tell my story better and clearer than none could.” “That I am a fighter, a warrior, a survivor, an over-comer and a story teller.” Let me add one more word that Lydia left out. She is an inspiration and lights up a room with her smile!  Now she puts her whole heart into all that she does for God’s glory!

A few days ago Lydia shared this thought on her face book.  It seemed to sum up her journey not only for the week but through her illness too!   “This has been a great week for me. Though I had down moments as a result of the demise of a loved one, it has been so clear to me that joy is not the absence of pain, but the presence of God through it all.

The following quote was taken from Lydia’s facebook page to inspire her and others!

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“Recently I’ve been learning that life comes down to this: God is in everything. Regardless of what difficulties I am experiencing at the moment, or what things aren’t as I would like them to be, I look at the circumstances and say, “Lord, what are you trying to teach me?””

—Catherine Marshall

When The Door Clangs Shut It’s Prison Reality

I’ve heard that the initial sound of that door closing in prison is a horrendous shock to your system.  You realize at that point that there you are trapped with no freedoms whatsoever.  Obviously you realized it earlier as you had to change into prison uniforms and had a strip search to make sure nothing illegal is brought into the prison.  You knew that your voice meant nothing when a prison guard told you in no uncertain terms that you were in his house now.  Yet that sudden clang of the prison door communicates more than a thousand words.  Here you are trapped within a small cell with your freedoms gone.

Denny McLain -from a star to a number to forgiveness

Denny McLain -from a star to a number to forgiveness

This prison theme has been on my mind this week.  I have finished reading a book by Denny McLain the ex Tiger pitcher titled “I told You I wasn’t Perfect”.   Denny was the last pitcher to win 30 games.  His fame was like a bright falling star as it reached amazing heights only to plumet to the ground.  After baseball Denny got involved with the wrong people in his quest for the next deal for fame and money.  He ended up spending years in prison and explains in great detail what it was like.  Naturally when you read a book like that you put yourself in his shoes.  You think about how awful of a place it wouild be to live in as he describes his experiences.  Depending on the crime and the availability prisons come in different forms.  Some are overcrowded with very uncomfortable living conditions.  He describes the angry inmates that he had to live with.  He describes how just trying to use the pay phone was so bad since there was one phone shared by over 100 inmates.  He describes the fact that if someone hurts you in some way the worst thing you can do is snitch on them.  If someone wanted to kill you they could easily accomplish the feat and the trick was to give them no reason to be angry.  He also decribed the prison food and the fact that you never knew the sanitary state of the food.  Denny stayed in the really bad prisons and he also stayed in the less strict ones.  Either way it was prison and lost freedoms, but at least the minimum security ones were somewhat tolerable.

You realize you have no rights in prison

You realize you have no rights in prison

This prison theme came back to my mind a couple of days ago with the reality show “Beyond Scared Straight”.  It is a program in Douglas County Georgia designed to take at risk teens and give them the prison experience.  The teens are heading for a life of crime by their actions and a loved one has requested that they enter the program.  The kids are taken to the prison and they actually go through the prison routine.  They are checked for any illegal things they are bringing in and then they are given prison uniforms and cuffed.  They are forced to listen and obey the prison guard as he commands them and gets in their face if they seem rebellious. They are treated just like they were convicted of a major crime.   The prison is actually in lockdown when the teen guests are there. When the guard puts the kids in the cell he makes sure to emphasize the clanging of the door.  Once he points out the signifigance of it he lets the sound effects speak to them as he clangs the door shut and leaves for the night.

Click below for the video!
http://www.aetv.com/beyond-scared-straight/video/jailhouse-roc–22705219772

A few of the inmates are allowed to talk to them individually under supervision.  One of the episodes that I saw featured a big guy named William that was causing trouble.  Because of his size everyone was afraid of William and he could bully kids and cause all kinds of mayhem.  He was given the hard facts of life within the prison when one of the prisoners talked to him.  It wasn’t a situation of friendliness.  The prisoner was angry at him and let him know it!  “You think you are a tough man?” , the prisoner shouted.  “In here you are nothing!” , he stated again.  The prisoner had to be four or five inches taller than William and had a body chiseled with muscles.

 An inmate killer gets Williams attention!

An inmate killer gets Williams attention!

There were two sisters that were in the program together.  They were 16 and 14 and their mother was an ex convict who had been released from prison.  She didn’t want her girls to have the sad prison experience that she had though they were heading in that direction.  She arranged to have them go through the program together.  The girls did everything together and their involvement with a gang had a lot to do with the older one leading.  The first thing they did at the prison was seperate the girls.  The women prisoners had a field day with them in their individual cell visit.  They scared them in no uncertain terms as they described the horrible consequences of what they could expect as a new prisoner.  They graphically explained the truth of dealing with hard core criminals for a new person.  The older one was scolded for leading her younger sister on a path that could end up on the inside with them!

The next day the teens are allowed a visitor.  Usually it is a parent who was actually responsible for their entry into the program.  Just as if they were a convict the teen has to talk through the glass walls to the person on the other side via a telephone.  It was truly heartwrenching seeing true sorrow from the teens.  The two sisters were allowed to talk to their mother (who experienced prison), individually and she poured out her love for them.  She told them that she knows what it is like in there and that she never wants to see them in there again.  There was one teen who was so shook up he poured it out to his parents about how sorry he was and that he would change for the better when he got out.  I could tell by his tears of remorse that he truly meant it!  The parents at this point have the option of accepting or denying the request of their teen to get released at that time.  Some decide that they have truly learned a powerful lesson while at other times it’s decided that more time is needed. 

An experience hopefully not repeated for real

An experience hopefully not repeated for real

A couple of months later the program sends prison officials to follow up on the teens behavior.  The teens are interviewed and most of the time they are talking about how their lives have changed after that experience!  I was struck by the big bully kid William and his new attitude as they showed him playfully on all fours riding his little year old nephew on his back.  The two sisters had quit their gang and had formed a group through their church to uplift their peers attitude and success!

A friend was telling me a story about a phone call they received at work.  The person on the other end was upset about something that didn’t get done.  When the story was finished the friend told this person how so sorry they were that this had happened.  Explaining why it did but also stating again that they were truly sorry.  This seemed to totally disarm the would be complainer.  The lesson that I learned from the story is that sometimes things happen and it effects other people.  If they understand that the other party is truly sorry for the results it creates an understanding.  After all who among us has not made mistakes?  True sorrow will soften the hardest hearts where arrogance and pride will harden them further.

Probably the saddest part of a life in prison is the people you leave behind.  I was watching another reality show where the father went to prison at the age of 24 for crimes he commited while addicted to Heroin.  He had three daughters and a son.  His son was the oldest and had felt the need and responsibility to be the man of the house as early as six years old.  The program dealt with hurt, hate, and all of the emotions of a father who wasn’t there when they needed him.  The host asked the young man what was he addicted to?  It seemed harmless to me when he said that he was addicted to work.  The host made a strong statement that “you don’t have to be in prison physically to be in prison in your mind”.  It makes so much sense as Jesus came to set us free!   In the end it was up to the family to come to a place of burning the past.  They literally took dads prison photos and put them into a burning fire.  Forgiveness is not easy, but it is essential in moving ahead.  By forgiving others we demonstrate the love of God who is willing to forgive us for our sins.

Denny McClain’s wife Sharon put up with so much in his first stint of prison.  A horrible car accident had taken their daughter and Denny was looking for an escape.  He bought a company that was headed for bankrupcy and tried to rescue it.  To save time he signed some blank documents trusting that his business partners would secure the loan they needed.  Instead of borrowing the money it was taken out of the companies penion plan.  Denny was sentenced to more jail time and his wife Sharon gave up.  She filed for divorce stating “I can’t deal with you anymore”. 

Eight years later Denny was out of prison.  He and Sharon had still talked as often as Denny could through all of that time.  When Denny was close to getting out it was Sharon who drove him to the halfway house where Denny would spend his last few months.  After that time they started seeing each other again.  Sharon knew that Denny wasn’t perfect but they started to grow closer by the day. One day Denny got down on his hands and knees and begged Sharon to marry him again.  ” I promise I will never put you through pain again” , he said.  “I may be crazy”, Sharon said with a smile, “but ok!”  When someone is truly remorseful it shows.  Undoubtedly that is why Sharon was willing to forgive Denny one more time!

When God sees that we are truly sorry for all of the bad we have done, he is also willing to forgive!  A remorseful heart leads us into his kingdom.  Being truly sorry is taking off the fake mask and letting people see us as we are.  When we are broken that is when God can fix us!   Sometimes an experience like the Douglas County Prison experience in Georgia can get our attention.  It is a bad experience turned good!  Much like a sermon I heard years ago that inspired the poem that follows.  The sermon was titled “Five Minutes In Hell’ and made the point that if we were allowed to spend five minutes in Hell what changed people we would be when we returned!  Much like the teens who experienced prison firsthand.  Would we be willing to do what the poem suggests?  If so it is our desire to put aside our own interests for the benefit of others who are trapped in their own prisons.  With God’s help and our willingness to do his will, the sound of the clanging door in minds everywhere can be silenced substituded by a peaceful freedom only God can give!

If I had Gone To Hell
by Lewis Hamilton
from the book “The Gardener and My Garden” c1997

If I could spend five minutes in Hell
I’d have a change of view
Old ways of thinking would quickly change
I’d look at all things new

If I could see the torment there
and see the raging flames,
I know my thoughts and actions here
would never be the same

My prayer life would be different
the Word of God I’d know
if on a trip to Hell
for five minutes I did go

Things that seem important now
wouldn’t matter at that time
A trip to Hell for five minutes
would get my priorities back in line

If I saw and felt the anguish there
and gnashing of the teeth,
I’d never wish anyone here
that awful fate to meet

If I hurt for you like I would hurt
If I had been in Hell
I’d make the effort to let you know,
I’d give you a hard sell

Of just how bad it was in there,
a place no one should go
I’d tell you to get right with God
and Jesus come to know

I’d treat my neighbor the right way,
a light I’d truly be
I’d make sure that nobody would
go to Hell because of me

Lord give me a real burden,
get me out of my comfort shell
Let my actions be as if
I had gone to Hell.

He answered, “Then i beg you,
father, send Lazarus to my father’s
house, for I have five brothers.
Let him warn them, so that they
will not also come to this place
of torment.”

Luke 16:27-28

If I Had Gone To Hell

by Lewis Hamilton
from the book “The Gardener and My Garden” c1997

If I could spend five minutes in Hell
I’d have a change of view
Old ways of thinking would quickly change
I’d look at all things new

If I could see the torment there
and see the raging flames,
I know my thoughts and actions here
would never be the same

My prayer life would be different
the Word of God I’d know
if on a trip to Hell
for five minutes I did go

Things that seem important now
wouldn’t matter at that time
A trip to Hell for five minutes
would get my priorities back in line

If I saw and felt the anguish there
and gnashing of the teeth,
I’d never wish anyone here
that awful fate to meet

If I hurt for you like I would hurt
If I had been in Hell
I’d make the effort to let you know,
I’d give you a hard sell

Of just how bad it was in there,
a place no one should go
I’d tell you to get right with God
and Jesus come to know

I’d treat my neighbor the right way,
a light I’d truly be
I’d make sure that nobody would
go to Hell because of me

Lord give me a real burden,
get me out of my comfort shell
Let my actions be as if
I had gone to Hell.

He answered, “Then i beg you,
father, send Lazarus to my father’s
house, for I have five brothers.
Let him warn them, so that they
will not also come to this place
of torment.”

Luke 16:27-28

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