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Archive for the category “A Short Trip To Hell”

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

Image may contain: 1 personDr. 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.”

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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!

“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

The Hell Experience

Jay Wilkerson was David Wilkerson’s (The Cross and The Switchblade) grandfather.  When David was going through a time where he needed someone to counsel with about where God was taking his life he decided to seek the advice of his elderly grandfather.  Jay was a preacher from way back.  In his younger days he was called a circuit rider.  It meant that he would travel by horseback from one little church establishment to another and fire up the congregation.  He also started up and organized new establishments.  In this setting Wilkerson was not called in to preach a dry sermon.  His mission was to bring action, a spark, excitement, repenting or whatever the church needed to become a growing entity in the community!

One night Wilkerson was preaching in a tent in Jamaica Long Island.  Earlier in the afternoon he had visited a friend in the hardware business.  Since it was the fourth of July weekend the topic turned to some of the fireworks his friend was selling.  Wilkerson ended up buying some sparklers from his friend.  The sparklers were supposed to crackle, pop, smoke, and spark when stepped on.  Wilkerson put them in a paper bag in his pocket and forgot about them.  Since it was around the 4th of July a lot of people had the time off so a large crowd was in the tent where Wilkerson was preaching that night.  He preached a fiery message about Hell with a vivid description.  As his message was peaking in it’s intensity he happened to put his hand in his pocket and felt the bag with the sparklers he had purchased earlier.  Casually he pushed them out of the bag from his pocket and onto the floor.  As his vivid description of Hell climaxed he stepped on those sparklers!  With the sound of popping and crackling and smoke rising from the front behind him,  people not only swore they were moved by the message, but  when he preached they could  see, hear, and smell the Hell he was describing!
Smoking fire

Hell is a rather controversial topic around Christians and non-believers alike.  Even the non-believers are sometimes quick to tell someone to “Go to Hell.”   Yet if they really knew the enormity of their words I’m sure that they would never wish that on anyone.  Bill Wiese wrote a book on an experience he claims to have had.  It is titled “23 Minutes in Hell”.  He wrote that his journey occurred so that he could come back and tell others of the horrendous reality of his experience.  He makes the point in the introduction of his book that in today’s society “warnings serve to protect us from harm.”  He states  that in real estate “contracts are written to protect the buyer and disclose to that buyer all facts known.  In fact the buyer would be outraged if he or she was not given full disclosure.”  He continues his argument with this question “What loving parent does not warn his or her children to not play on a busy street?  When the sky turns dark and the winds increase, we look to our local news channel to communicate tornado or hurricane warnings.  So why is it that when God warns us of what will happen if we travel down the wrong road, we are quick to say he is myopic or condemning?  Or we say he is judgmental!  The truth is that he warns us because he is a good God.”  Since his experience Wiese has been on a mission telling people of a place that he knows exists from first hand experience.  He tells them of the torture as he details his experience in that awful place.

I heard a sermon years ago called “5 Minutes In Hell”.  The main point of the sermon was that an experience of going to Hell would surely change our lives as it seems to have for Wiese.  I wrote a poem about that sermon that I will share next.  I think the 5 minutes mentioned in the sermon would be more than enough time to come back a changed person!

Recently I was on a trip through Kentucky.  We stopped at a flea market off of the highway.  It happened to be a place where devastating tornadoes had just touched down within a few miles just the week before.  I was astonished to find that most of the people I asked had not taken cover.  Their attitude was best summed up by the man who rang us up.  “We get warnings here all of the time”, he stated.  Seeing just a glimpse of the wreckage from the highway was enough to convince me that if there is a tornado warning I will always take cover!

The Bible mentions Hell over 150 times.  According to the Bible it is a real place.  Since most of us will not experience a trip to Hell in this lifetime maybe we can get enough of a glimpse from books like Wiese’s or sermons like I heard.  Maybe we can warn people to not play on the busy streets of sin.  Instead we may encourage them to take the narrow path that leads to eternal life in Heaven.  Wiese concludes his introduction to his book with these inspiring words, “My sincere hope is that this book is the closest you will ever come to experiencing this reality for yourself.”  Jay Wilkerson would have concluded that if a few sparklers stepped on at the right time would help people avoid Hell so be it!
fire01

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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