lightenload

Come with me on a spiritual Journey!

Archive for the category “Doing it Differently”

Take It!

Yogi Berra was quoted as saying “If you come to the fork in the road take it.”  Actually this made perfect sense as Yogi was giving directions to his house in New Jersey.  The road to his house was interrupted by a blockage and two different roads seemingly going in different directions.  Each road however circled back to Yogi’s house so if you got to the fork you couldn’t go wrong.  Unfortunately the forks in our life roads go in opposite directions and the destinations are completely different.

https://i1.wp.com/i.quoteaddicts.com/media/quotes/1/15929-yogi-berra-quotes.jpg

It was just a few short weeks ago.  Earl Robinette was contacted by the Detroit Tigers.  They wanted him to come in and sign a contract.  His son had contacted the Tigers office and told them the story that Earl had been living with for years.  You see Earl is 80 years old.  The contract that he was given to sign was a nice gesture by the Tigers.  It was a one day contract to symbolically relive a time in his life years ago.  It was a fork in his road that appeared in 1954 and he has lived with the decision all of these years.  “What would have happened if I had signed that contract?”, he must have asked himself over and over.  “How would that decision have affected my life and where would I be now?”

In 1954 Earl Robinette was 19 years old.  He was the oldest of 6 children and he had responsibilities.  That day he was out about a quarter of a mile from his farm house using a horse to cultivate a cornfield.  It had rained and he wasn’t able to get the tractor in the area.  He saw his father frantically waiving a white towel for him to come to the house.  Earl rode the horse in and his brothers gave him a clean shirt and hosed him down because he was filthy.  When he entered the house to his surprise there were 3 Detroit Tigers executives there to meet him.  They had discovered Earl at a tryout camp in Mount Pleasant, Michigan which is just south of his hometown of Clare County.  Earl was a switch hitting outfielder with a strong arm and apparently the Tigers felt he had a great baseball future!  According to Earl there was a contract laid out in front of him which included a $28,000 signing bonus.  Earl was pleased to know that these executive experts had considered him worthy of such a contract and was ready to sign the deal.  He looked to his parents for final approval before he took the leap but they just sat there.  He never could figure out why they didn’t respond.  Maybe they thought they were looking out for Earl’s best interest.  Maybe they didn’t think much of the life of a baseball player.  Whatever the reason they just sat there until the executives decided that it wasn’t going to happen and picked up their contract and left.

After signing a one day contract with the Detroit Tigers

So Earl now 80 walked down the long hall way at Comerica Park.  The walls were covered with Tiger players from the past.  Maybe if things had worked out differently Earl’s picture would be right there with them.  Of course it wasn’t and there was nothing he could do about that now.  Earl was seated at a table that signings regularly took place.  Most of the big names on the team had signed their contracts right on that same table.  This contract was specially made for Earl and he didn’t hesitate to sign it!  He was given a Tiger jersey and a hat.  It was a time of reflection Had he signed, Earl summed up that he never would have met his wife and had the happy family that he ended up with.  Had the signing taken place it is anyone’s guess where he would have ended up.  It’s one of life’s mysteries that we all go through in one way or another based on decisions that we make.

Jesus too has a contract waiting for us to sign.  There isn’t a mystery as far as where the decision to follow Christ takes us.  It leads to a heavenly home and eternal life with him!  There won’t be a man made hall with pictures to remember.  In God’s hall of fame faces shine forever and ever and never grow old!  Unlike the contract from the Tigers Jesus keeps his contract on the table.  You may be older now and regret the fact that you haven’t signed his contract yet.  Know that it isn’t too late.  Jesus is still waiting with his pen in hand. Like the directions to Yogi’s house whether you are 19 or 80 the destination after taking God’s road ends at the same place!

The Contract

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

I’ve got a contract with the Lord
that with his blood he signed
He offered it to all of us
yet it’s one of a kind

I examined it with a fine toothed comb
A lot of time was spent
to try to find restrictions
Where was all the fine print?

It promised me eternal life,
a heavenly home I’d win
if I just opened up my heart
and let the Savior in

Now logically I’ve been told
I’d have to earn my way
No one in their right mind
would give it all away

Yet the contract says, whosoever will,
that has to include me
It says it is a gift from God
and it’s absolutely free

Now I’ve accepted his free gift
and my life has changed, no doubt
I cannot work salvation in
but I certainly can work it out

There’s someone who is at your door
with his contract for you today
Will you accept his free gift
or send him on his way?

But God found fault with the
people and said: “The time is
coming, declares the Lord, when
I will make a new covenant with
the house of Israel and with the
house of Judah.

Hebrews 8:8

 

 

 

Advertisements

Just As I Am

At the end of Billy Graham’s messages you heard the song.  It was a song pleading for lost sinners to come home.  Just as I am with just one plea, but that thou blood was shed for me.  Billy Graham preached to millions over his lifetime!  His messages were  hope to the lost.  They were about how God could take a life that was broken and fix it!  “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”, he would invariably say.  I remember so well watching his crusades on TV.  After the services it seemed like thousands were going up front to accept God’s gift of salvation!  Billy Graham was a revered leader to those who believed in his message and even those who didn’t.  He was frequently in the company of leaders and presidents!  He was always in the conversation as one of the  most respected people of his time!  Yet, for all of the success that Billy Graham had bringing people to Christ he had a rebellious son who was lost and living a life far from God.

Thousands attended Billy Graham Crusades!

Thousands attended Billy Graham Crusades!

In 1952 William Franklin Graham entered the world.  Franklin made the comment in the opening line of his book Rebel With A Cause, that “If I had understood the messages people were sending me on the day I was born, I might just have crawled right back where I’d come from and taken a rain check!”  Of course he was joking but here is a sample of sentiments that came that day.  A Western Union telegram read “Welcome to this sin-sick world and the challenge you have to walk in your daddy’s footsteps.”  A card read “May his great father’s mantle fall on him.”  A note to the Grahams stated, “We heard that your daddy has new help for preaching God’s truth.  Praise the Lord!  Grow up fast!”  “Good luck and best wishes to the young preacher”, another card encouraged.   One Catholic admirer stated “I’ll bet that your new boy will be a Catholic some day, maybe priest, bishop, or cardinal, possibly pope.  He would then be infallible in matters of faith and morals.  Franklin stated that he was sure that all of the people who applauded his birth meant well.  They would not knowingly put pressure on him to live up to his powerful father’s image.  Yet at an early age he realized that being the first son of a legend would be both a blessing and a burden.

Click on photo for original larger-size version.

Franklin grew up loving the mountains.  They were settled in Montreat, North Carolina which is 15 miles east of Asheville.  The mountainous region was just the setting that made Franklin love the outdoors.  Sightseers frequently visited their first house wanting to get a glimpse of where the great Billy Graham lived.  Many times they would come right up to the door.  Franklin’s mom Ruth valued their privacy and when another group of tourists left one day she proclaimed “that’s enough.”  “We need our privacy.”  They bought some land in the mountains just outside of Montreat and she named it “Little Piney Cove.”  To Franklin it was a place he loved and always referred to as home.  Ruth’s idea was to be practical and build a log cabin home.  Buying three different abandoned log shacks and using the logs on each one to build their new home was practical in her mind.  She was the daughter of missionaries to China and almost didn’t marry Billy Graham because she had her heart on becoming a missionary too.

Franklin naturally looked for a father figure.  His father Billy Graham was a world figure and was often away.  Later in his ministry Billy would be able to fly to his crusades and fly back home the next day.  In those earlier years though Billy Graham could be gone weeks or months at a time.  When preaching the gospel overseas his mode of travel back then was often times ships.  Adding to the travel time was the many countries that welcomed Billy Graham and his message.  The result was salvation to thousands across the world yet also a missing father to his own family.  Young Franklin used to go with his mother as she supervised the new construction.  Franklin was fascinated by the teamwork and precision these men displayed.  He was also fascinated by their smoking.  Invariably he would pick up their cigarette butts and try to smoke them too.  It was an inward cry I’m sure of being like men he admired.  The workers got a kick out of young Franklin and sometimes dropped half smoked cigarettes in his path just to watch him delightfully pick them up and smoke.  His mother would invariably catch and reprimand him not to do that, but that didn’t stop Franklin.  One day his mother tried to break him of his habit of smoking used butts.  Their caretaker Floyd Roberts stopped by to make sure everything was alright.  Ruth asked Floyd if she could have the cigarettes in his front pocket.  “I’m going to teach Franklin a lesson”, she offered.  With the cigarettes in hand she called Franklin down to the kitchen in front of the fireplace.  “What is she up to?”, Franklin wondered.  She pulled out one of the cigarettes and handed it to Franklin.  “Now light it up and smoke it and make sure you inhale.”  Franklin couldn’t believe his mother was giving him permission to smoke!  Ruth on the other hand thought that the smoking would make Franklin throw up and rid his habit for good.  Well she was partially right!  Franklin did run to the bathroom and threw up but to her surprise he came back and smoked some more!  After breaking for the bathroom 5 or 6 times he had finished the pack.  Instead of teaching him a lesson the activity showed just how determined Franklin could be to do the unexpected and not conform.  It was obviously not the results that his loving mother had wanted.

Franklin loved the great outdoors and spent many an hour finding his entertainment in the mountains.  He didn’t like being cooped up inside and to him school was just that.  While in school his mind was invariably on adventures instead of what it should have been on.  As a result his grades were never what they could have been.  Comments would always suggest that Franklin could be such a better student if he only applied himself.  When he was thirteen he heard his father’s distinct voice calling him.  “Franklin, I need to talk to you.”  As he entered the room Franklin wondered “What now?”  “Your going to Stony Brook”, Billy Graham said in that forceful distinct way that he made his points when he preached.  Franklin knew that it was pointless to argue because the decision was already made.

Franklin felt a dull ache in his chest.  If his parents were going to send him away why didn’t they choose a school in the south?  He was a southern boy and hated the idea of going to school with Yankees from the north.  Stony Brook was a Christian boarding school on Long Island in New York.  Franklin felt lost right away as the schools academic expectations were very high.  Discipline however seemed to be rule number one at the school.  Students were required to dress up in shirt, tie, and jacket.  Since Franklin didn’t have proper clothes for the school his father took him shopping just before he left and bought him a wardrobe of proper clothes.  Franklin was used to wearing his casual jeans and shirts around his mountain home and school.  Now he was required to wear clothing that he simply didn’t like.  Living in the dorm was another challenge to Franklin.  He felt like his freedom had been taken away, much like being sent to prison.  He was a loner in many ways and now he had a roommate.  Although his roommate was nice enough it wasn’t a comfortable living situation for him.  To top it all off Franklin’s southern accent made him different from most of the other kids.  He simply didn’t feel like he belonged.

Franklin felt that the school put it’s values in the wrong places.  For instance they were very disciplined as far as the student dress code went.  However, when it came to respect that the students showed for their teachers they seemed very relaxed.  Franklin, though rebellious, had grown up learning to respect his elders.  It seemed that the school let kids get away with mouthing off all of the time.  In his former school, if he caused problems he was hit with a paddle.  At Stony Brook they just accumulated demerits.  If they reached a certain level they were forced to sit in a study hall.  “Big deal”, Franklin thought of what he perceived as soft punishment for multiple offenders.

Franklin discovered a deli and became friends with some of the guys who worked there.  They let him in the back room where he could smoke and drink a beer or two whenever he wanted to.  Later because he made it known that he would like to live alone the school gave him a single room.  It wasn’t very big but he liked the fact that he could go out on the ledge and smoke!  Of course smoking was illegal at the school and when asked if he did he would always lie.  When someone would state that he smelled like smoke he might reply that he just came out of the kitchen and the cook was smoking and blew smoke on him.  Still in his heart he knew that he was walking a tight rope.  He was hard and callused and didn’t care what happened.  He was determined to be rebellious and he went against  everything the school was trying to stand for. On the other hand he didn’t want to bring a bad light on his famous father.  Mixed up and confused all he really wanted to do was come home.

By Thanksgiving of his junior year Franklin summoned up enough courage to confront his dad about his situation.  “Daddy”, he stated “I’d like to finish school here in Black Mountain.”  His father quickly stated, “Stick it out Franklin, next year you will graduate.”  Undaunted Franklin made his point.  “Daddy, if you don’t let me come home by Christmas they will probably kick me out sometime this year!  Don’t you think it would be better for me to bring it to an end gracefully?”  Deep down he knew that his dad knew he was breaking rules and rebelling against authority at every turn.  He had become very cynical and hard hearted.  “Let me talk it over with your mom and pray about it”, was his fathers response.  The next day Franklin was pleasantly surprised.  “Stay at Stony Brook until Christmas and you can come home.”  Franklin could hardly hide his excitement and delight!  He would be coming home from a place he despised to his beloved mountains!

When Franklin got back to his home school he was pleasantly surprised again!  Since Stony Brook had such high academic standards Franklin was already way ahead of his class.  He was promoted to the senior class and allowed to graduate with them.  Still things did not go smoothly that year.  He was suspended from school for getting into a fight with another student.  The other student was much bigger than Franklin and was used to picking on the other students without recourse.  Franklin wouldn’t take abuse from anyone and stood up for himself.  He was told that one more altercation like that and he would be out the door.  He had another incident but fortunately it wasn’t with the school.  Franklin loved to drive fast and usually the local police officer let it go.  One time however as Franklin breezed by him the officer started a chase.  Franklin seeing the police car with lights flashing in his rear view mirror and knowing that the police cars in his town were ill equipped to keep up with him didn’t stop.  He hit the accelerator and quickly ditched the officer pulling into the house property and quickly shutting the gate.  A few minutes later his fathers voice called for him.  “Franklin, come down here immediately!”  Confronting him was the officer and his father.  Franklin was surprised when his father said that he supported the officer and if he wanted to take Franklin to jail he backed it 100%.  Fortunately he was just given a stern warning about the dangers he was causing by his reckless behavior.

Fortunately Franklin was able to complete the year without further trouble.  It was discovered after he was accepted to a college in Texas that he was one credit short of graduation.  His father stepped in on his behalf and they made an agreement that he would finish his high school credit at the same time that he was taking freshman classes in college.  His famous father went to bat for Franklin and he was grateful!  You would think that Franklin would be satisfied.  However, he went to his father again telling him that he would like to go to Alaska.  Wanting to see new sights  he sold his father on the idea.  Making contacts and using his influence with people he knew Billy Graham  got Franklin and a friend named Jim jobs on the Alaskan pipeline.  Unfortunately when they arrived their jobs were not available due to protests from environmentalists.  Franklin wasn’t worried because the same company had other jobs.  Unfortunately he was split up from Jim and didn’t see him again.  Jim ended up going back after a few weeks but Franklin remained in Nome the rest of the summer.  He loved being outdoors and working his 12 hour shifts.  He had never felt so free and he was making all kinds of money!  He also flew with his bosses son.  He was always excited about motorized things and was always interested in taking things apart and putting them back together.  Being that close to the pilot and seeing how he navigated the big aircraft enhanced his desire to learn to fly himself.

college-photo_10915.

LeTourneau College was Franklin’s college of choice.  LeTourneau was named after R. G. Letourneau, a prominant Christian businessman who had been an early supporter of Billy Graham crusades.  R.G. loved flying and had a heavy desire to spread the gospel.  He realized that so much more could be accomplished through the air and he founded the technical school to train students to be pilots and engineers for missionary service.  LeTourneau also trained other tradesmen such as welders and machinists.  Franklin was assigned a roommate named Bill.  Right away Franklin and Bill really got along well.  Even though Bill was totally focused and Franklin was not, the two hit it off!   Bill wanted to be a pilot for the missionaries and his life was totally dedicated to God.  Even though he was a born again Christian, Franklin noticed that Bill was not the stuffy kind of Christian that he had noticed many were.  Bill was fun loving and adventurous.  Franklin learned a lot from Bill.  Bill took Franklin up in his little plane.  Bill’s plane was small and kind of junky, but Franklin loved that plane and the rides they took.  Bill was one of the big reasons that Franklin was happy at the college.  The other was the classes he was taking.  He could see that the things he was learning could be beneficial to him later in life!

Franklin was fascinated with flying and received his pilots license.  That led to a mishap that detoured him from flying for awhile.  He borrowed a plane and took a few friends on a trip.  As they were landing on the flight home he misjudged his speed and the length of the landing strip. He couldn’t stop the plane in time and ran off of the runway.  The plane was severely damaged but nobody was hurt.  Feeling embarrassed by what had happened Franklin avoided people for as long as he could.  Finally Bill encouraged him to go up again.  Bill from his own experiences knew that mishaps can happen and the best remedy is to be fearless.  When his father wanted Franklin to join him in Vero Beach Florida where they were vacationing Franklin took some friends and rented a turbo jet.  At the airport in Florida Franklin made a perfect landing as his dad watched intently.  After visiting for a few days they were flying back in the fog and the plane had lost it’s radio signal.  They could see the lights to the city and found the airport.  Since they couldn’t radio they circled hoping that somehow someone would notice them and give permission to land.  Just as they were about to give up hope the green light came on.  Franklin was delighted and lowered the plane carefully.  Just then all of the airport lights went on and he could see very clearly and was able to land the plane perfectly!  As soon as he landed the plane and coasted to a stop all of the lights went out.  As they were walking away from the plane someone encountered Franklin.  “Is that your plane?”, he wanted to know “and did you just land?”  When Franklin acknowledged that he did the man wanted to know who gave him clearance?  Franklin and his passengers all confirmed that the green light had come on as an indicator for him to land.  Before they left Florida Billy Graham had prayed for Franklin and his passengers that God would give them safe flying and a good landing.  Franklin saw the results of that prayer that night.  He would find out that someone was touring the airport and the officials showed him what the signal would look like if they signaled a plane to land.  He also showed him the view of the airport with all of the lights on in case a plane had lost it’s power and didn’t have lights.  Even though he wasn’t a Christian at that time Franklin knew that the hand of God had to have been on them and their safety.

Franklin’s idea of what a missionary looked like drastically changed on his next summer job.  He was able to get a job through his fathers ministry of setting up travel arrangements for tours of the middle east.  In Franklin’s mind missionaries were just old people because that is what he was exposed to as they came to speak at his church growing up.  Franklin was astonished that two ladies were running a hospital in Mafraq.  In the middle east men dominate the culture.  Yet here was these two women doing great things for God in the middle of this male oriented society.  They were in the process of building a new hospital when Franklin met them.  He heard them talking about a need to expand their work.  The more he heard them share their messages to tour groups the more he wanted to help them in some way.  When he got back home he told his dad that he had been praying about the mission field.  Of course it wasn’t true.  Franklin didn’t pray much and never about becoming a missionary.  However the statement got his fathers attention.  He told him about those two ladies and how they were struggling and that they needed a land rover fully equipped to navigate in the desert.  If the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association would purchase this for them he said that he would sacrifice his education for a semester and pick the land rover up in England.  Then he would deliver it to them and stick around to supervise the building of the hospital.  Billy Graham was stunned by his sons statement.  Franklin admitted that he had never laid quite this big of a whopper on him before.  “I’ll talk to your mother and pray about it”, he replied.  A few days later they talked again.  “You can go Franklin”, was his reply “the organization will pay for you the land rover and gas to get to Jordan, but you will have to pay with your own spending money for everything else.”

Franklin wrestled with the situation.   Was this trip important to him at all?  If so how would he raise the necessary money?  One option was to sell his Triumph TR-6 automobile.  He loved that car and a friend of his fathers ministry gave him $1,000 to help him buy it on the promise that he would quit smoking.  He did quit for a week but found himself smoking again.  In the end he decided to sell the car.  Driving a land rover across the middle east was an adventure he couldn’t pass up.  His parents were concerned about him going alone so he called his friend Bill.  Bill was up for the adventure and everyone felt better that Franklin would not be traveling by himself.  Throughout all of the ordeals they went through Franklin felt he was having the time of his life.  He was smoking and drinking and having a ball across the middle east.  Bill on the other hand had a friend in his Bible.  He was such a dedicated Christian that Franklin was affected.  Bill didn’t preach to Franklin about his life style.  He just lived his life around Franklin and let that preach to him.

We fast forward to age 22 and Franklin had just graduated from college.  It wasn’t LeTourneau though.  He had been expelled from that school for failing to get a co-ed back in time after a flying trip with her met bad weather conditions.  He had called the school and explained the situation but it didn’t matter.  It seems that being Billy Grahams son he was judged on a higher standard.  He graduated from a college close to home and he was at a conference at his fathers ministry in Switzerland.  After dinner his father confronted him.  “Franklin, your mother and I sense that there is a struggle in your life.  Franklin wondered how his father knew and he was caught totally off guard.  “You can’t continue to play the middle ground”, he continued.  “You have to either accept Christ or reject him.”  “I want you to know Franklin that we are very proud of you and we will love you no matter what you do with your life and our door is always opened, but you will have to make a choice.”  Billy Graham patted his son on the back and said no more.  Franklin had prided himself on being so clever but he realized he wasn’t fooling anyone.  He was in the midst of some of the most beautiful scenery in the world yet he felt so empty and lost.

The congress in Switzerland ended a few days later and Franklin bolted off to help a friend of the Graham organization on his last tour through the middle east.  Traveling with him was a young Christian named David Hill.  David Hill was very committed to his faith and was always reading his Bible.  The demands of the job kept Franklin very busy.  When they reached Jerusalem David shared with Franklin from Romans about how there was no condemnation for those who believed in Christ.  Also scripture from the apostle Paul on how he was trying to do right but kept doing wrong.  Franklin began to sweat and lit up a cigarette to break the tension.  Instead of going to the bar for a couple of beers that night Franklin found himself alone in his room.  He found a Bible and was reading it.  The words of his father about making a decision were ringing in his ears.  He knew that something was desperately missing in his life and he felt so empty.  He found that although he was the son of Billy Graham, went to church, and memorized scripture for years he was totally empty inside.  Franklin Graham was saved that night.  It wasn’t at one of his fathers big crusades with thousands of people watching.  It wasn’t when someone was right there leading him to the Lord.  It was kneeling by the bed in a far away hotel room pouring out his confession and sorrow for the wayward life he was living.

Meeting needs!

Meeting needs!

Since that day Franklin got married, had four children, became the head of an organization called Samaritan’s Purse, and later ran his fathers organization.  Franklin found his calling in helping people with needs. Billy Graham’s  ministry dealt with the final phase where people accepted Christ.  Franklin’s calling was to prepare people to get to that point.  “How can people listen and accept Christ when they are hungry and without essential clothing?”  People will always compare Franklin to his famous father.  “Franklin does not have the smooth eloquent way of expressing himself that his father did”, they would say.  “There will never be another Billy Graham”, it was said through the years.  The fact is that there will never be another Franklin Graham either.  We all are different and have special unique qualities that God can use!  Just like Franklin couldn’t get by on his fathers legacy the same holds true for us.  No matter who our parents are good or bad, we have to come to God on our own.  Franklin found that it doesn’t matter to God what everyone else expected.  What is important is what God expects from him.  As he hears the song lyrics “Just As I Am”,  I’m sure he often thinks about his  own situation.  Growing up with expectations made Franklin rebel.  Now he realized that God didn’t expect him to be Billy Graham.  He was expected to be Franklin Graham!  When Franklin had remorse for his sins God looked down and saved him just like he was!  He felt freedom for the first time realizing that he was his own man and felt comfort knowing that God would help him create his own shadow!

Billy Graham.JPG

Franklin & Billy

When I Stand Before God

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

When I stand before God
to give an account of my life
my church won’t be there
not even my wife

Not family nor friends
to condemn or condone
When I stand before God
I’ll stand thee alone

Will God be pleased
if I give him the line
I would have prayed more
but couldn’t find the time?

There’ll be no one to blame
as reason number one
for my failure to do
what should have been done

So Why should I worry
and why should I care
about what others think
who will not be there?

Yes, God in his fairness
will ask only me,
How have you invested
what was given to thee?

There’s time on the clock,
to still set the tone
for my appointment with God
when I meet him alone.

So then, each of us will give
an account of himself to God.

Romans 14:12

An Unusual Cab Ride!

The cab pulled into our driveway and I went out the front door to meet it.  I was eleven years old and dressed in my full baseball uniform.  My uniform was a baby blue with yellow lettering, stirrups, and a hat much like the yellow color of the cab.  This was the first time I had ever ridden in a cab.  Even the circumstances were unusual but very thoughtful.  You see my dad was working again.  He was on the swing shift and here I was without a ride to my game.  I had wanted to play Little League again after a year off because of the ride issue.  I think I talked dad into the fact that somehow I would get a ride when he couldn’t take me.  Usually that turned out to be the case but on this particular night no ride was available.  That is when my loving mom stepped in.  She knew how much I wanted to be at my game and the only way for her to get me there was the yellow cab now sitting in our driveway.


Growing up we were always playing some kind of ball games in our neighborhood.  It was so different than it is today.  Today everything is organized and grownups are involved.  We played games amongst ourselves and used our imaginations too!  We played Wiffleball a lot usually in someone’s backyard.  It was a two person game and it was only hitting, not running.  Each person would choose a professional team and each at bat you would call out who was batting.  For instance the Detroit Tigers were always chosen by one or the other.  When you announced a particular player now batting you tried your best to duplicate their batting stance.  The Tigers at that time had a player named Dick McAuliffe.  He had the most unusual batting stance maybe of all time.  He was a left handed batter but he had an extremely opened stance as he was turned completely facing the pitcher.  His bat was not back like most players positioned it.  His arms were stiff and the bat was extended way out away from his body.  Naturally he was the most fun player to mimic because it was so exaggerated that everyone knew who it was.  As unnatural as it seemed for McAuliffe it became natural.  Years later someone asked him why he used such an extreme stance?  “When I first went to the minor leagues”, McAuliffe stated “I was hitting everything to the left side.  The coach had me open up my stance to help me hit to all fields.”  With that extreme batting stance McAuliffe was very successful and played a number of very productive years!

Dick McAuliffe

The rules have changed countless times in the game of basketball over the years.  One thing that hasn’t changed however is the free throw.  The distance is still 15 feet from the basket and the player is shooting unopposed.  They call the line “the charity stripe”, but many playing the game are not good at taking charity.  Early on Rick Barry’s father knowing the importance of making free throws taught his son the underhand approach.  For years Barry was the only one in professional basketball shooting his free throws that way.  Barry recalled his first game of shooting free throws underhand at the high school level.  From the stands he heard a voice “hey Barry, you are shooting like a sissy!”  Another voice piped in from the man sitting next to the original.  “What are you complaining about?  He doesn’t miss!”  When Barry contemplated how unusual and weird his form was his father had words of wisdom.  “Nobody will make fun of you as long as you are making them!”  Barry was the best free throw shooter of his time in the NBA!  He shot 90% for his career!  He once made 60 free throws in a row!  Nobody laughs at how unusual Barry’s free throws looked.  They only marvel about his uncanny accuracy!

US PRESSWIRE Sports

I think as Christians we can fall in love with traditions and the way things are “supposed” to be.  God made us all different with different talents and abilities so it doesn’t make sense that everyone’s ministry would look the same.  Dick McAuliffe’s unusual batting stance ended up not so unusual at all.  You see McAuliffe’s stance changed as the pitch was coming and he was striding into the ball.  His bat came back into more of a typical position and his weight shifted much like the technique all successful hitters employ.  The difference was not in the fundamentals but how he got there.  Maybe someone is doing something different in their ministry to attract people for God.  The bottom line should always be “Do they preach the fundamentals of the virgin birth, resurrection, and saved by grace?  If the answer is yes then it is just a matter of the fisherman using the proper lure to attract certain types of fish!

I got into the cab and we were off for the field.  My mom gave me enough money to cover the cab fare I hoped, but sitting in the backseat I noticed that the meter ran pretty fast.  I had a plan in my head for when we got to the field.  As an eleven year old I was very sensitive to what people thought about me.  I was concerned that if they saw me getting out of the cab they would have fun with it at my expense.  I thought if he just drops me off at the beginning of the entrance I could walk up to the field undetected.  As we pulled in I said “This is fine”, but the cab driver kept going.  He drove right up in front of the field and dropped me off.  Unfortunately it was right in the middle of my team and everyone’s head turned.  The cab stopped and I paid the driver and made my exit.  There was stirring from my team and one teammate in particular kept asking “How was the ride?”  It was the attention that I didn’t want.  As an eleven year old kid I just wanted to blend in and now I was standing out.

Even though there were grownups there too such as my coach and the other parents it was only the kids on my team that gave me a hard time.  The more mature people knew that the important thing was that I was there, not how I got there.  It’s the same way with your ministry if it is unusual in any way.  It’s not going to be the mature Christians who ridicule you, it will be the ones that don’t understand that God works in many different ways!  Rick Barry did not look like everyone else as he shot those free throws, but he shot an amazing percentage!

As an eleven year old the question “How was the ride?” almost was too much to bare.  If only I had the experience and wisdom that I have now!  I would say “You mean you rode with your parents? How boring is that?”  “You missed something special..That cab had massaging heated seats and a place to soak my tired feet.”  OK I might not have turned it around quite that much but you get the idea.  They would have admired me for withstanding their ridicule much like I admire to this day people who step out in faith and do something special and unusual for God’s glory!

Doug’s Song!

I didn’t even know who sang the song until I looked it up for this story.  The song is called “Straight Up” by Paula Abdul but I have renamed it.  You see we listen to the oldies station at work where they play hits from the 70’s and 80’s.  This was a big hit in the 80’s and those were the years that I knew Doug.  When I hear that song, which I do every day, because the station has a very limited selection of songs it plays, I think of Doug.  In fact to me it isn’t “Straight Up” it is Doug’s Song!”

Over the years working in my positions at the University I have become acquainted with numerous students.  Usually students are hired either through work-study programs or from out of the departments budget.  It’s a nice thing for a student to have a job that is close and convenient and they offer helpful hands to do the busy monotonous work that is hard for us to find time for.  By far the most memorable student I ever met was Doug.  Doug was hired in our Accounts Receivable office to handle the little things like all students were.  Doug was different than any student I have met before or since.  He was studying Finance which wasn’t that unusual.  His dad was the president of a bank which happens.  Doug though had such a dynamic personality that he made us laugh every day we saw him!  I always looked forward to Doug coming in because he cracked me up with his crazy fun ideas.  For example: he really admired my ability to relate to students and help them understand their accounts.  He came up with a name for me “The Doctor of Finance!”   Doug talked about a video he wanted to do sometime.  It would have had the big hit of the day “Bad Case Of Loving You” sang by Robert Palmer in the background.  That song had the lyrics “Doctor doctor give me the news, I got a bad case of loving you.”  Doug pictured me dressed in the whole doctors uniform like I was ready to perform surgery.  At the appropriate time between the main lyrics he pictured me having my own part as I danced around singing that I was the doctor of finance.  I was to emphasize in my little song how the students could come to me and I would perform the operation that would save them financially!  It was all fun and I played along with Doug about the possibilities of his dream production becoming a reality.

Doctor Doctor Give Me The News!

Doctor Doctor Give Me The News!

One of the ladies that had the position of keeping track of students that were moving into the dorms from the financial side of it had to go on maternity leave.  Instead of hiring a temporary person for the position Doug was placed in her spot.  In all of my years at the University I have never seen a student doing a full time workers job except in Doug’s case!  Usually Judy who had the position did her job in silence.  She talked to the appropriate people in the housing area and got everything straight.  With Doug doing the job it was entertainment at it’s best! I remember he had one person that he couldn’t get placed right.  We were billing this person but he couldn’t get it straight which dorm room they were in.  He went around and around with it and we could only laugh as the whole episode was so entertaining to him and us too.  Finally after going around in circles with everyone it seemed and giving us updates on the details in his excited way he got the person placed right.  I can’t even describe the suspense he created through the whole episode, it was priceless!  Eventually Judy came back to her job and Doug returned to being a student worker again.  The time that he was doing that job was some of the most suspenseful, funny, and entertaining times I have experienced.  His whole outlook on life was so upbeat that he uplifted everyone that he came into contact with!

Every day Doug said or did something that just cracked me up!  He shared everything that was going on in his life and he was so outgoing!  Doug had a magnetic personality and he was a hard worker.  His goal was to become a president of a bank like his father.  Anyone could see that with his charisma he would eventually reach his goal.  He was always trying to look on the funny side of life.  To make me laugh one day he told me that he wanted to be a singer for just one song.  They were playing that “Straight Up” song on the radio and he told me his part was coming up.  They sang the part “Straight up now tell me do you really want to love me forever OH OH OH.”  Doug wanted to do that “OH OH OH” part!

OK, so as I would do with Doug sometimes let’s play along with his “dream job.”  If Doug somehow miraculously got the job of singing the Oh, Oh, Oh’s his name would appear right on the album along with everyone else who had big parts in the song.  He would get royalties from me hearing the song every day!  After all he would have been part of the group right?  So Doug would have been paid each time the song played all of these years for basically doing nothing.  I didn’t mention that Doug had kind of a gravelly voice and I don’t think he sang well.  Of course that wouldn’t matter because it would be hardly noticed with his limited part.

Maybe it is a dream to have a job that you don’t do anything but get paid handsomely.  After all most of these high paying jobs require long hours where you can’t enjoy your success.  Wouldn’t it be nice to get paid for very little time spent?  I joke sometimes to people when they ask me if I like my job?  I love my job I’ll tell them, but I’m still looking for that job where they just send the checks to my home without me having to come in!  That joke always gets a laugh as they invariably reply “Well if you find that job let me know!”

I guess that is the lure of the lottery.  By only investing a dollar you could become an instant millionaire!  I’m afraid that this kind of thinking has gotten into our Christian walk.  So many times we want to do things the easy way.  Maybe by name we want to be a Christian but when it comes to walking the walk we would rather take the easy path.  Doug became a vice president for a bank just like we all knew he would.  He got there with determination and hard work.  He was only joking about his dream job of singing.  Many times as Christians we are not joking.  We want to be sent the benefits without doing anything.  We want to win the war without going to battle.  We want to be the hero of the game from the bench. When you can’t tell the Christians from the Non-Christians something is wrong.  We no longer are the salt of the earth that Jesus talked about that separates us.  That fact alone should cause us to really  say OH OH OH, not as a quick way to riches, but to recognize our bad attitude and have God change us!

It’s Getting Crowded In Here!

I didn’t get out for Black Friday this year.  In years past I’ve found myself mixing with the crowds.  Although I was never one to start so early that I’m waiting in line for the store to open, I would venture out in the early morning of the day.  This year the thought of pushing through a crowded mall was not something I desired to do.

I’ve been reading a little bit about “Black Friday.”  The term actually was made up as a bad thing.  It seems that the day right after Thanksgiving was a day that more havoc occurred than any other day of the year.  There was more traffic, more accidents, and more crime.  The police force had to be on high alert that day and increases in the number of officers working was a necessity.  In spite of all of this normal havoc, retailers found that it was a very profitable day.  Not liking the negative meaning of “Black Friday”, they wanted to make the term a positive one.  The “Black” in their mind referred to the fact that on this day they would be very profitable and in the “black ink”, instead of the red.  They kept the name and started hyping up the gigantic sales they would have.  People naturally wanted the advertised good bargains the stores put out there.  Not being one to stand in a line all night I would show up to the store at a normal morning time.  Invariably I’d find a worker to ask if they had any more of the items.  Usually the answer was “that was sold out in the first 15 or 20 minutes.”  That very fact leads me to believe that even a night spent in the parking lot doesn’t guarantee that you will be able to buy the few big bargains that the store has!

Following the crowd on Black Friday

Following the crowd on Black Friday

On the surface it seems that people are waiting in those lines to get the big bargains, but I think there is something underneath all of that.  I believe that the biggest reason people line up hours before the store opens is to be able to say they were  there.  I think it gives us a cause bigger than ourselves and we can tell someone in an excited tone “I was in the line with 100 other people at 3 am!  A friend told me a story about relatives that were out waiting for a store to open.  It seems that they were in the Best Buy line, which at the time was very crowded.  Across the way was a Kohl’s store which at the time wasn’t crowded.  Nobody rushed over to the other store even though they probably had just as good values.  The fact that the excitement was in the line they were in made them stay in that line.  Who wants to tell someone of the great adventure of walking right into a store with no rush as the doors opened?  We would rather tell of the thrill of pushing through a crowded door and racing to the desired item!

For most of us crowds are a love hate relationship.  We hate the crowded traffic but may love the crowded restaurant.  You may argue that the crowded restaurant isn’t loved either, but I wonder why the restaurant is crowded?  I think that there is a certain comfort zone that we have in going to a place where everyone else is going.  The place down the road probably compares favorably in menu items, but where is the thrill of going somewhere nobody else goes?  There is also that inward thought of “it must be good because everyone is going there.” I’m reminded of a Yogi Berra line when he was asked about a certain restaurant he used to frequent often.  “Nobody goes there anymore”, he stated “it’s too crowded.”

Everyone when they are young it seems has answered a question from their parents as to why they did something? “I did it because everyone else was doing it.”  Most of the time it seems the invariable question comes back from our parents.  “If everyone was jumping off of a bridge would you do that?”  We don’t answer that question but if we did the answer would have to be a resounding “yes!”

A statement was made by a lady when asked why they stand in line for hours before the store opens on “Black Friday?”  “It is a way of bonding with my son”, was her answer.  It wasn’t about the special offers the store had going.  She explained that they very seldom had quality time together and this was a way to do it.  Each year they look forward to that time together.  I think it is very important to have that close relationship with our kids, and if that is the only way to get those precious moments go for it!  However, I think that it tells a lot about our society and our fast paced world.  When I was young we used to always eat at the kitchen table as a family thing.  More often than not today meals are eaten around a TV set and the family bonding is replaced by the latest TV excitement.

This year “Black Friday” extended to “Black Thanksgiving day.”  Some stores opened on Thanksgiving night to try to get a jump on the “Black Friday” event.  Thanksgiving is such a wonderful time of families getting together for a special day!  Now it seems that the retailers are crowding in to disrupt it!  Not only are we tempted to rush to the stores but thousands of people are required to work on a day that should be reserved for family time.  How sad that greed interferes with core values!

I understand that retailers try to cash in and make “Black Friday” an exciting experience.  In our society we seem to crave that thrill of the moment feeling.  I’ll bet that yearly “Black Friday” participants would have a hard time remembering the items they bought on “Black Friday”  three or four years ago.  Our society is good at promoting us to run after the “thrill of the moment” escapes.  We see it in drug abuse, alcohol, and other diversions.  We dilute ourselves to believing that acquiring things will make us happy.  Somewhere along the line we’ve lost our core values and a peace inside of us that is lasting and not store bought.  Maybe it is time to get back to the basics of family values and bonding in natural ways.  Perhaps we will get a warmth in our heart and a peace of mind!  Only God can give that peace and his door is never too crowded.  His peace is far better than finding ourselves before a “Black Friday” store opening in a crowded cold parking lot racing for the newest retail fad they throw our way.

Routinely Eating Fast Food

It’s a Saturday morning and I’m out and about with my mind wandering.  Have you ever been driving and you get to your destination and you wake yourself up with the question “How did I get here?”  If you are like me, there are times that you are thinking about other things and the car is on auto pilot.  Anyway I catch myself between thoughts because as a creature of habit I am mechanically on my way to work instead of the intended store or other destination.  I say to myself “hey wait a minute, you don’t work today!”  I always catch myself after a mechanical turn or two, but it’s funny how much we are creatures of habit.

Maybe it can be said that we are creatures of routine.  If you are like me you wake up at a certain time for work and go through the same routine daily.  For me there is an order to when I take my shower, get dressed, eat my breakfast, brush my teeth etc.  I’m not sure if I have a morning routine or if it is my habit to do these things in the same order every day? One habit or routine I do have is that when I go into the bathroom I turn the light on. There have been times that we have lost electricity and I find myself entering the bathroom and automatically flicking the switch only to find the power is out.

I wondered what the difference was in routines and habits so I recently searched the internet and read an interesting article.  An example was used of a person trying to lose weight.  They changed their routine and ate Cheerios every day because they heard it is healthy and supplies the grain they need.  This is called a change of routine as they went from eggs and bacon to Cheerios every morning.  Unexpectedly something out of the routine happened.  They were invited to a breakfast and they discovered that Cheerios was not an option.  The routine was broken and they went back to eating eggs and bacon that morning.  They discovered how much they like their eggs and bacon and it became harder to go back to their new Cheerios routine.  Now consider changing a habit.  A habit is more broad based and long term.  In this example they make a habit of having more grain in their diet.  Usually the Cheerios fills the bill in the morning, but when the routine unexpectedly changes, they can still pick out something on the menu to fill the grain need!  In their mind they know that they stayed with their plan and carry on their new habit of more grain at breakfast!

Each of us have different mannerisms that make us individually interesting!  Our mannerisms are ways we react to situations.  Some people stick their tongue out for instance when they are concentrating.  My son and I were watching a baseball game recently and the batter kept stepping out of the box after each pitch to pull and adjust his batting glove.  My son wondered aloud why he needed to do this same routine after each pitch?  Or would you say it is a habit or mannerism?  It’s tricky how we react and sometimes it’s hard picking a label.

I was watching highlights of an old Dean Martin roast from the 1970’s.  Dean would have a special victim and he would have famous guests who knew that person.  The guests would all get up and make us laugh as they made light of the victims shortcomings.   On this particular episode they were roasting  Johnny Carson.  Rich Little was a famous impressionist at the time.  He had Johnny’s voice down but the thing that made it hilarious was he also had Johnny’s mannerisms down too!  He did what he considered Johnny’s three best jokes.  Of course the jokes themselves weren’t very funny, but the mannerisms Johnny has on stage were so realistically duplicated that it had me cracking up!

I’m still thinking about the routine vs the habit idea and evehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uW_qQfKwbDEn throwing in mannerisms.  For some reason they all blend together in my mind.  The fact of the matter is that all of them can get so ingrained into us that they become automatic.  It’s like when you are driving your car and a deer runs out in front of you.  You don’t have to think to hit the brakes, it is automatic.

I’ve heard it said for so long that the reason it is so good to go on a vacation is that it gets you out of your routine.  I have to agree with that.  Although we get comfortable with routines we find that we are not living fully and feel almost mechanical.  Yes mechanical in that we feel like we need to have a schedule and stick to it!  We feel like we are in a box where we are conditioned to act and react certain ways.

If you ever have worked in fast food places you know what it is to get in a routine.  The fries and hamburgers are made a certain way and cooked a certain amount of time.  All of the hamburgers should look the same.  The customer always knows what they are getting.  You can go to a McDonald’s in Michigan and it will be the same as one in Alabama, Ohio, or Florida.  Nobody ever said that fast food is good for you.  The value of fast food is that it is convenient and fast.  It fills you up and it is a routine in itself.  You might get used to going through the pickup window or ordering from the counter.  Either way the employees are trained to get you through the line in a timely fashion!  Years ago I wrote a poem called Fast Food Christianity.  The thought at the time that I wrote the poem was that fast food wasn’t good for us! Similarly getting our spiritual nourishment in a fast food way wasn’t good for us either!

The Drive Through Routine

The Drive Through Routine

Fast Food Christianity

By Lewis Hamilton
From the book “The Gardener and My Garden” c1997

Fast food restaurants
Computer Technology
Knowledge expanding
We’re in the new century

Planes flying everywhere
Scanners at the stores
Medical technology
like never before

Microwave ovens
next to fax machines
Instant relief from pain
Quick oil changings

Quick drying, fast moving
products that we try
See it on a commercial
Soon you’re going to buy

Fast stop Christianity
service ends at noon
Better not end later,
OK if it’s too soon

Big fancy churches
buildings made for men
We won’t be too humble
so God cannot come in

Sunday afternoon restaurant,
smorgasboard and all
Preacher got long winded
giving an altar call

Break this heavy chain, Lord
I’m spiritually tied
Fast food Christianity
has me satisfied.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

James 1:27

After thinking about routines and habits we all have I’m thinking a little differently about the meaning of this poem. You see we like our little routines and we like to categorize. There are times that God becomes a routine in our life. We drive the car of life like it is on auto pilot without thinking about others around us. Even things like going to church and praying can become a routine that we do because we are supposed to. The person in the poem realizes that fast food Christianity has satisfied them and they know that it shouldn’t. It’s like eating that hamburger and fries and thinking it is satisfying our nutritional needs. We have turned the power switch (like my switch in the bathroom) only to realize that the connection to the power is gone. Only by taking God out of a religious ritual of routine habits and into a loving relationship will we get the power back!

Walking The Straight And Narrow

Suddenly with the wind gusting to new heights he went down to one knee.  In that moment he seemed so helpless as something completely out of his control had threatened to destroy his dream.  It was a dream to walk across the Grand Canyon that Nik Wallenda first had as a teenager.  It was an attempted feat that he had dedicated to his great grandfather.

Carla Wallenda, Karl Wallenda, Raymond Chitty, and Richard Guzman (Carla’s husband). Ca. 1965
 
Great grandfather Karl Willenda was born in Germany in 1905 to an old circus family and began performing at the age of 6.   He answered an ad  in the newspaper while in his teens for a hand balancer with courage.  Through the years Karl would show the world just how courageous he was.  His employer taught him the trade so well that in1922, Karl put together his own act with the help of his brother Herman, Joseph Geiger, and Helen Kreis, a teenager who would eventually become his wife.  The act proved very successful as it toured Europe doing amazing stunts!  In 1928 John Ringling saw them perform in Cuba and was so impressed that he hired them to be part of his Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.  The act had it’s start in Madison Square Garden.  The safety net that they used had been lost in transit, so they performed without one.  The crowd gave them a standing ovation for their death defying show.  In Akron Ohio the group all fell off of the wire, but nobody got hurt.  It seemed to the onlookers that the Willenda’s fell so gracefully that they were given a nickname that would stick “The Flying Willendas”. 
 
In the years to follow Karl developed some extraordinary acts such as the seven person chair pyramid in 1947.  Through the years they continued to entertain the world with their daring feats.  In 1962 tragedy struck.  While attempting the pyramid stunt at the Shrine Circus in Detroit, the front man on the wire lost his balance and the pyramid collapsed.  Three men fell to the ground.  Killed were Richard Faughnan, Wallenda’s son in law; and his nephew Dieter schepp.  Karl injured his pelvis, and his adopted son Mario was paralyzed from the waist down. 
 

Karl Wallenda

Karl Wallenda

In spite of these setbacks Karl went on.  He continued performing with a smaller group, and doing acts alone.  He repeated the pyramid act in 1963 and 1977.  In 1970 Wallenda crossed the Tallulah Gorge in Georgia on a high wire.   On March 22, 1978 Karl Wallenda fell to his death.  He was attempting to walk between the towers of the Condado Plaza Hotel, 10 stories up.  He was 73.  Karl has several branches of grandchildren still performing regularly today.  They have achieved recognition in the Guiness Book of Records.
 
Nik Wallenda completed the walk that Karl didn’t on June 4, 2011, with his mother, in honor of Karl.   Last year Nik was the first aerialist to walk directly over Niagara Falls, from the United States to Canada.  He crossed the river’s widest point wearing a safety harness as was required by ABC television.
 
Last Sunday Nik Wallenda attempted to become the first aerialist to walk directly over the Little Colarado River Gorge.  The event was broadcast live on the Discovery Channel.  A 2 inch thick wire was suspended 1500 feet above the river.  Nik would be attempting the walk without a harness or safety net.  The distance was figured to be 1,400 feet between the cliffs.
Nik Wallenda walking over Niiagara Falls

Nik Wallenda walking over Niagara Falls

 
When I heard about the event that very day I had no intention of watching.  I thought if someone was going to be stupid why should I get involved?  My wife was watching as I went into the computer room to get away.  After a few minutes she called out “you really should come and see this.”  Reluctantly I came in and the sight and sounds were surprising. They had hooked up a microphone to Nik and as he was walking step by little step he was in a deep conversation with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!  Each step of the way he was offering praise and worship.  It was like listening in to someone’s deep personal communication with God and it was beautiful!  If you closed your eyes you would have never realized the danger he was in.  He was also in contact with his earthly father who was talking to him through an earpiece encouraging him with every step and warning him of dangers ahead.
 

Nik Wallenda looks over the 2 inch wire cable he would be risking his life on

Nik Wallenda looks over the 2 inch wire cable he would be risking his life on

Later I watched a replay of the show that led up to the event.  They were showing all of the preparation that went into the engineering that made the walk possible.  It involved drilling into rocks and running that cable through them.  It involved getting the right weight and thickness for the chord.  It involved stretching that chord over the 1,400 feet and making sure it was tight and secure.  The process was facinating because it set the stage for the main event.  Without everything perfectly set up there was no chance that Nik could get across.
 
So there Nik was on one knee asking God to calm the wind.  He stayed down for just a little while and suddenly he was back up.  He tried to be patient waiting for the tenseness in the line to return.  Carrying a balancing rod he kept putting one foot in front of the other in a perfectly straight line as he praised his God!  The camera sometimes shifted to his feet and I could see the precision of his steps.  Each step was a feel for the rope and then the foot securely finding it. 
 
Of course most of us watching ask ourselves why?  Why would someone risk everything in a stunt as millions watched.  It didn’t take long as I first saw and heard him up there to possibly understand.  What a testimony he portrayed to millions!  When does someone get a chance to witness to millions at a time?   Psalms 23 states that “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me”. There was no doubt that Wallenda felt comfort in God’s hands in the midst of the danger!
 
As I was thinking about Wallenda’s walk on the 2 inch wire I was reminded of the words of Jesus in Matthew 7 verses 13 and 14.  “Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the road and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it”.  In the end aren’t we all in a spiritual sense walking Wallenda’s walk in life?  Aren’t we all on a spiritual tight rope with Jesus representing the bridge between us and the Father and all other ways ending in destruction? The good news is that the bridge is engineered perfectly sound for us to cross over without fear!
 
They showed a long range view and Wallenda was three quarters of the way across.  I could see his little figure with the background of rocks behind him, slowly advancing.  He had taken another knee a ways back and now he was steadily proceeding!  One step in front of the other he was almost home.  When he got within twenty feet of the end he took four fast hops.  The quick change of pace startled me but here he was safely on the other side greeted by his awaiting family!  Maybe that is how life ends for Christians.  Maybe after the toils of life’s burdens we suddenly run to our God and awaiting loved ones as the victorious journey ends!   The first thing that Nik did was walk over and kiss the solid ground he
was now standing on.  Spiritually he was on solid ground all of the time!
 
 
  

Jose Can You See?

Ernie Harwell, the great longtime Detroit Tiger’s radio announcer didn’t know that when he was asked to pick the three singers for the 1968 World Series at Tiger Stadium, one of his selections would almost cost him his job.  Ernie had written some recorded songs in his spare time and General Manager Jim Campbell entrusted him with the search for singers.  Jim Campbell was a very conservative don’t rock the boat type of General Manager.  One of the performers that Ernie picked was Marvin Gaye and Gaye was specifically told to keep his singing as straight as possible to how everyone else had sang the song.  Margaret Whiting was also picked and she did a traditional version.  The third person Ernie picked was somewhat by default.  He wanted Eddie Arnold to do the anthem before game 5 but Eddie had another engagement and couldn’t make it.  Ernie was told by a friend in the record business in Hollywood about Jose Feliciano.  “I saw this guy and I think you will really love his rendition!”  Feliciano had a big hit at the time, his rendition of The Doors “Light My Fire.”  He was a young Puerto Rican man and he was blind.

Ernie Harwell

Ernie Harwell filled the job openings and kept his main job!

Feliciano was born in Lares, Puerto Rico, on September 10, 1945.  He was permanently blind at birth as a result of congenital glaucoma.  His family was very poor as his father, a farmer could barely support them.  He was exposed to music at a young age and always loved it!  When he was five, his family moved to Spanish Harlem, New York City.  He started in music playing the accordion until a family friend gave him a guitar.  With that guitar in hand he practiced sometimes as much as 14 hours a day as he listened to 1950’s rock n roll.  He developed his own style and at age 17 he quit school to play in clubs with his first professional performance in Detroit.  In 1963 he played in clubs around the USA and Canada, most notably at Greenwich Village New York and British Columbia.   In 1964 he came out with his first single “Everybody Do The Click” which became the #2 hit in the Philippines and in 1965 he recorded his first album.

By 1968 Jose had moved to Los Angeles and had a big hit “Light My Fire” which he did in a Latin style.  By the summer of 1968 it had reached #3 on the US pop charts with over a million copies sold in the US market!Feliciano

Harwell contacted Feliciano and Jose was thrilled to be picked to do the song!  Jose loved America and the wonderful opportunity he had here.  He came here a poor boy and was seeing the success and rewards that only in America he could have!  He was determined to put everything he felt for a country that he loved into his song!  He would sing it with soul and feeling because that is how he expressed himself!  The only problem that he had was his schedule.  He was playing late the night before but that was OK!  He was so thankful for the opportunity and for what this great country did for him that he took the red eye flight and arrived early that morning!  Ernie met him, his wife, and his seeing eyed dog at the airport and drove them to the stadium.  He visited the Tiger clubhouse and sang little songs to the Tiger players.  He was playing the Light My Fire song and adding his own Tiger words like “Cmon Kaline light my fire. Gotta take the Tigers higher.”  The players loved him and the time passed quickly.

Feliciano was a young man who loved this country!

Feliciano was a young man who loved this country!

Before he knew it game time was near and he was being led out to the outfield with his dog to sing the National Anthem.  He strummed his guitar beautifully as he sang the song with feeling and soul,  but it was different than what people were used to.  Although Jose was just putting himself into the music many fans complained.  From coast to coast complaints came in that he was being disrespectful of the flag and the song!  The controversy came directly to Harwell who was asked time and again why he chose Jose.  Harwell defended Jose saying that it was a different rendition but it was done with the utmost respect for our country.  However we were going through different times that year.  We were in a war and people were very sensitive to anything that seemed out of line.

Ernie got reprimanded by Campbell but didn’t lose his job.  Jose on the other hand went through a down time in his career for a couple of years.  He had a hard time getting his records played. Over the years Harwell and Feliciano stayed in touch.  Ernie actually introduced Jose to his wife he married in 1982.  They are still together today!  When Ernie revealed that he was suffering from terminal cancer in the Fall of 2009 Jose and his wife Susan sent him a beautiful boquete of flowers!  Ernie in turn wanted to right a wrong that had happened so many years ago.

In September of 2009 after Ernie had learned of his terminal illness he had a meeting with owner Mike Ilitch and team president Dave Dombrowski at his house in Troy.  Ernie was at peace with himself and the fact that he was secure in where he would spend eternity.  The one thing on his mind though was the circumstance years ago.  Jose Feliciano should have been appreciated for his rendition of the national anthem instead of the boos he heard.  He made a suggestion almost in jest to have Jose Feliciano come back and sing the national anthem again.  To the Tigers credit that is exactly what they did.  It was just after Ernie’s death and they were paying tribute to him before the game.  As a tribute to his lost friend Jose came!  Just as he was excited the first time to sing about a country that he loved, this time he was excited because he was also singing it in memory of a friend he had grown to love.  He sang the same song in the same unorthodox way with so much feeling! It was almost a duplicate copy of his first rendition forty two years earlier, yet this time he got a standing ovation!  What made the difference in the way his 2010 rendition was received?  It was our realization all of these years later of the true intent of a young blind singer so many years ago.  He wasn’t disrespecting our country or the flag!  He was giving them his ultimate respect as he put his heart and soul into the song!   Jose Feliciano was blind and yet it was the ones who had their sight  in 1968 that had the affliction.  Being blinded to the truth is far worse than being physically blind.  The standing ovation forty two years later showed that the truth has been embraced and we are not living in darkness anymore.

Jose was asked to sing the Anthem before the opening NLCS game!  How things have changed!

Jose was asked to sing the Anthem before the opening NLCS game in 2012! Fireworks exploded as he sang about the bombs bursting in air and jets flew overhead as the song ended to a huge applause!  How things have changed!

Click below to see a video nobody would have dreamed we would see forty five years ago!

Who would have predicted this video?

Post Navigation