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Archive for the category “Doing it Differently”

Oil For The Tin Man

“Have you been doing your exercises?”  It was my Chiropractor after my last visit.  I go to my Chiropractor every six weeks and he takes care of my neck issue and my lower back.  The exercise is designed to keep my neck loosened up so I can turn it better.  I could truthfully answer for the first time in awhile that I had been doing the exercises he prescribed.    I mentioned that I felt like I was fighting a losing battle.  He agreed with me that gravity was a tough foe to go against.  When I walked  away my neck was unlocked and my head could turn smoothly and freely!  He had done his job but we both knew that in six weeks I would right back here with the same problem.

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The problem behind the problem that  I have stems from the job that I do.  You see I sit in front of a computer all day and my neck is positioned out of line.  Small doses of this would probably be fine but hour after hour in the same position takes it’s toll.  The strange part of it is that my neck comes out of line so gradual that I usually don’t realize how locked up I am.  The chiropractor knows just what tests to run me through to see how badly I have regressed.  He either adjusts me on a standing table or he uses one where I lay down.  The procedure is quick with a command of “deep breath in” and the  sudden push in the targeted spot which causes the table to adjust too.  There is always a loud pop when that happens.  Usually it is just the table that pops but once on a while my body cracks too.  Then it is off of the table and more tests to see if the problem is solved.

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Remember in the old Wizard of Oz movie where Dorothy and her new friend The Scarecrow were skipping down the yellow brick road only to notice the tin man.  He caught their attention because he was stiff like a statue.  Then they heard his feint sound. Dorothy and the Scarecrow made out his sound to mean oil.  Suddenly they found an oil can right next to him.  Dorothy started squirted the oil on his mouth and suddenly he could talk.  He was telling her where to apply more oil and before you knew it he was limber enough to skip down the yellow brick road with them!

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It is ironic that the Tin Man thought he needed a heart.  However the words to the song Tin Man by America are true “Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man that he didn’t already have.”  His problem was that he got stiff and rusty and couldn’t act on what his heart was telling him.  The same thing can happen to us.  We can get hard toward the things of God and try to do things ourselves.  Often times it is only when we find that we can’t do anything that we humbly put our trust in him.  When we come to that realization we become thankful that he has softened our heart and given us a purpose for living.  No longer are we trying to do everything by ourselves because like the Tin Man we need to be free.  We realize that the spiritual oil God gives us is exactly what we need to be happy.  We are free because the burden is now off of us.  He said that he would take our burdens and carry them for us.  Because of the spiritual freedom he gives we are thankful for the transformation in us that occurs!

One day Jesus as he was about to enter a village on his way to Jerusalem heard 10 men afflicted with Leprocy cry out to him.  “Jesus, Have mercy on us”.  Jesus told them to show themselves to the priest.  As they started walking they were all healed.  Jesus had in effect taken the spiritual healing oil and applied it with his words and their faith.  Later one of the ten came back to Jesus and was so thankful.  He praised him in a loud voice and threw himself at Jesus’ feet.  Jesus asked the questions “Wasn’t there ten that were cleansed?” Where are the other nine?  Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?  Then he said to him “rise and go, your faith has made you well.”  When Jesus said well in this case he meant well both physically and spiritually.  The other 9 got their physical healing but their hearts were still hard.  This man was so thankful that he was sent away the second time with a clean heart too!

There are so many things that I want to do.  Before I try to begin I need to ask myself is this something that God would want me to do?  Being connected to him makes decisions far more easier.  He often times puts the desire in our hearts.  Without that driving desire our dreams by themselves fall by the wayside.  There are so many people that make goals for the new year and after a month or two abandon them.  Why do they fail so miserably?  The answer is that their goals are not deeply rooted.  Without deep roots when discouragement comes their dreams blow away much like a badly planted tree.

So how do we follow through on our goals.  How do we find the successes that we desire?  First of all we need to make sure that what we want is what God wants for us.  If we feel in our spirit that it is we are at the point of beginning.  Now we need to get God involved.  He tells us that if we delight ourselves in the Lord he will give us the desires of our heart.  Psalms 37:4.  So what does it mean for us to delight ourselves in the Lord?  It means to put him so high that everything else is distant.  It means that he is first and there is not a close second.

We may find that God takes us in a completely different direction.  If so we will be so much more fulfilled knowing that we are completely in his will.  On the other hand it may be a freeing up thing much like the oil for the Tin Man.  The Tin Man didn’t get his oil until he asked for it.  The same went for the ten with Leprocy.  One thing is for certain God is our friend.  He wants the best for us.  His best can be fulfilled when we give our hearts, soul, and mind to him.  Then when he gives us a desire he loosens us with spiritual oil so that we are free to fulfill our mission.  When my neck issue is straightened out it’s only a matter of time before it freezes up again.  It is only a temporary fix.  God does not do temporary fixes.  He uses his spiritual oil to take us to higher ground by helping us accomplish all of the desires he has placed in our hearts.



A Helping Hand

His comedy club opened in 1969.  Rodney and a friend opened it in New York City.  It was a club where Rodney could do his act without having to travel all over.  Travel had been his life but it can be a lonely existence.  He was born Jacob Rodney Cohen and kept that name until he was 19.  His father had abandoned the family and Rodney only saw him a couple of times a year.  At the age of 19 Rodney changed his name to Jack Roy.  He had been writing jokes for stand up comedians since the age of 15 and longed to be on stage himself.  He did get jobs in the field but only at local clubs.  He never caught a break and his income as a local comedian was not paying the bills.  In fact he was deeply in debt.  With a growing family (a wife and two kids) Rodney quit the business and became a aluminium siding salesman in the 1950’s.  Later he would make the joke that when he quit show business he was the only one who knew he quit.  He was not happy even though he made enough to support his family.   He never let his dream die.  Rodney decided to give stand up comedy another try.  Now it was the early 1960’s and even though he had quit the business years ago he had not quit writing jokes.  He decided that he needed a character, an image, something people would remember.

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A name change was in order but what?  A night club owner suggested the name “Rodney Dangerfield.”  It was a name used by Jack Benny on his radio show in talking about an old cowboy.  The name would surely get attention and it was adopted.  With a new name he began working on his image.  What could people relate to?  He came up with “nothing ever goes right for me.”  With a subject to work with Rodney developed his routine in a new way.  He also had the mannerisms he used that were as funny as his jokes.  He actually had a funny look.  He made his eyes look even bigger than they were and he had the ability to fire one joke after another.  His memory was sharp and he always remembered where he was going.  All he needed was a big break and he got it in an unexpected way.

Ed Sullivan had a weekly TV show that had all kinds of acts.  As a last minute replacement Ed chose Rodney to do his act.  Rodney was the surprise hit of the show and that opened up doors Rodney never entered before.  There was demand for his act and he came up with his new line.  Instead of “Nothing ever goes right for me” he replaced it with “I get no respect.”  As his popularity increased so did his travel.  Doors opened but they were doors away from home.  Rodney enjoyed his popularity and his comedy club enjoyed great success through the years.  He realized that if Sullivan had not given him a helping hand all of his success may not have happened.

Many have been very talented and have taken their talents to Hollywood only to never get discovered.  We’ve heard stories of unlikely beginnings when the person who would later become a star was in the right place at the right time.  Mel Gibson tells the story of how he got started.  He had been in a fight the night before and had bruises and cuts on his face.  His friend needed a ride to an audition and being the good friend that he was Mel gave him a ride.  Gibson caught the eye of the director and he thought that he would be a good fit for a villainous character in his movie Mad Max.  Weeks later when Gibson reported bruise and cut free the director saw the young handsome Aussie and decided to give him the lead role.  Image result for mel gibson young

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Chris Pratt had an unusual journey to fame.  When he was 19 years old he lived  out of a van in Maui, Hawaii, and waited tables at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.  Actress Rae Dawn Chong happened to come to the restaurant to eat. She cast Pratt in a horror comedy she was directing.  That movie was never released but it opened the door for Pratt to land a role in the drama “Everwood.” In the future Chris would reach leading man status.  What a fortunate turn his life took that day at the restaurant because of a chance meeting!

Carol Burnett received $50 from an anonymous donor in an envelope.  It was for the first year of tuition at UCLA.  Carol was poor and lived with her grandmother.  Going to UCLA was out of the question until that helping hand.  Then in her second year a professor invited students to his house to perform as part of his class.  After her performance while she was stuffing cookies to take to her grandmother a couple came up to her.  Instead of reprimanding her for what she was doing they asked her what her plans were.  She wanted t go to New York and try her hand at a musical comedy but didn’t have the money.  Right on the spot he offered her a loan of $1,000.00 interest free.  He mentioned that he wanted her to pay it back within 5 years so that she would have the responsibility and that if she made good that she had to help someone else achieve their dreams.  Carol did make good as we all know and she has a scholarship at UCLA for actresses in Theater.  She also saw the couple many times through the years and was forever thankful for giving her the means to support her dream. A dream that may not have come true without their help.

Originally Rodney founded his comedy club for his own reasons.  He wanted a place to do his act.  Through the years and as Rodney became an icon it expanded.  HBO did specials from Rodney’s club that helped young comics get exposure.  Rodney was right in the middle of it giving his help wherever he could.  The best help he could give was to give people the chance that he so desperately longed for years ago.  He gave them a platform to exhibit their talents and make people laugh.  Through his efforts many comedians became famous.  Comedians Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Jay Leno, Ray Romano, Roseanne Barr, Jerry Seinfeld, Bob Saget, Jerry Stiller, Kevin Kline and Jeff Foxworthy were featured at his club.  He gave them a chance and they were forever thankful!

Photo of Dangerfield's - New York, NY, United States. Front

Rodney joked when he went to the hospital for the last time.  He was going to have an operation involving his brain. If successful it would increase blood flow in preparation for a heart valve replacement he would need at a later date.  He was asked how long he would be there and his answer was typical Rodney. “If all goes well about a week, if not about an hour and a half.”  The next month it was revealed that Rodney had been in a coma.  His wife was told that it might be helpful to pull him out of it by having people come and tell their jokes.  Every day they had comedians that Rodney had given their start coming to that hospital room.  His wife mentioned that those sessions should have been taped because they were some of the best ever.  All of those comedians cared deeply for Rodney.  The guy who always said he got no respect was getting the respect that kings don’t get.  Unfortunately  all of their efforts weren’t enough.  Rodney never came out of the coma.

Rodney Dangerfield was a self admitted atheist.  Yet he gave opportunities to a lot of people and God’s laws apply to the just and unjust. “Give and it shall be given unto you” Luke 6:38.  As a result of the good that he did he was blessed with true friends.  The people that helped Carol Burnett and others knowingly or not were obeying these commandments:  27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.  Proverbs 3:27..and “not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”  Philippians 2:4.  

As Christians it’s God’s will that we do onto others as we would have them do onto us. That is the golden rule.  Sometimes God puts people in the right place at the right time and they get blessed, but more often than not it’s the opportunity people have to lend a helping hand that makes the difference one way or the other.  Would we be willing to make a difference in someone else’s life?  If so that positive decision to lead someone up the ladder to new heights not only would bless the receiver but us too!

A Tale Of Two Kickers

Garo Yepremian was born in Cypress to American parents.  He immigrated to the United States with his brother.  His brother earned a soccer scholarship from Indiana University.  Garo was not eligible for an NCAA soccer scholarship because he had played professional soccer in London previously.  After watching an NFL football game Garo decided that he was going to be a professional football kicker.  He got a tryout with the Detroit Lions in 1966 and was signed to do their kicking.  Garo was a little guy at 5’7″ and his coach told him that after he kicked a kickoff to head straight for the bench.  His coach knew that one thing their opponents would love to do is dismantle their little kicker.  Garo kicked the ball and headed for the bench.  Unfortunately he found himself on the wrong team’s bench in the midst of the enemies.

At first Garo wasn’t comfortable with a helmet.  When he played his first game he wore one without the face mask until Ray Nitshke  a rough and tough linebacker of the Green Bay Packers tackled him and crunched his face into the ground.  After that little episode Garo wore a helmet with a single bar.  He was the last player in NFL history to play without a face mask.

In that first year with the Lions Garo wasn’t very familiar with the rules of football.  When his team was hopelessly behind one week they scored a touchdown with only a few seconds left in the game.  Garo was called in to kick the extra point.  After kicking the meaningless point through the uprights he ran around with his arms spread in celebration.  One of his teammates asked him what he was doing?  “I just kicked a touchdown!”, he explained.

Garo had a career game in his season with the Lions.  Playing against the Minnesota Vikings he kicked six field goals.  It was a record for kickers in one game and it stood for many years.

After the 1966 season Garo quit football and joined the United States Army.  When he got back to the Detroit area in 1968 the Detroit Lions decided not to offer him a contract.  He signed a contract to be the kicker for the Detroit Arrows in the Continental Football League.  After a horrible year with the Arrows (they won only one game), Garo found himself out of football again.  In the off season and the next year when he was out of football Garo sold Neckties.  He still had a desire to kick in the NFL again.

Garo Yepremian dies at 70; kicker part of undefeated Dolphins team

In 1970 Garo got the chance.  He signed a contract with the Miami Dolphins.  The next couple of years he let the league in scoring.  Garo was a kicker that was very accurate although he wasn’t a long distance kicker.  Today you see kickers who have no problem with distance from over 50 yards.  That was not Garo’s Strength.  However if the kick was inside 35 yards Garo very rarely missed.

Garo is remembered maybe even more than his kicking feats by one play that was on the world stage.  It was a field goal attempt with his team (the Dolphins) winning 14-0 against the Redskins.  It was in the Super Bowl so every eye was upon him.  His kick was blocked and Garo picked it up.  He was running across the field and was about to get tackled.  He tried to throw a pass but it slipped out of his hand.  He batted the ball right into the hands of a Washington Redskin player who ran for a touchdown.  “I honestly felt as if my life was over,” said Yepremian. “I never, ever had been disappointed like that in my life. Goodness, I felt as if it was the end. Norm Evans, the spiritual leader of the Dolphins, said, ‘don’t worry, God is with you.’ That was the best thing that ever happened to me, to have that encouragement from a friend. If the other team scored, and it would have went to overtime, that would’ve haunted me for the rest of my life.”Although it was very embarrassing and is shown whenever football bloopers are displayed it seems, the play did not cost the Dolphins their ultimate victory.  They won the Super Bowl that year by a score of 14-7.

When the media laughed at his gaffe Garo was very hurt.  He left the victory party early and went to his hotel room and took an ice bath.  He went home and stayed behind closed doors for weeks until he received a letter from his coach Don Shula.  The letter mentioned how important he was to the Dolphins and all of the games his kicks had saved.  “It was the most important letter I ever received” , Garo said remembering.  When he was with Shula signing autographs at a show he mentioned the letter to Shula.  “What letter?”, Shula asked.  It seems that Shula’s wife had written the letter and signed Don’s name to it.  Obviously she felt like he needed someone to pick him up and that letter certainly did!  Garo moved on from his famous gaffe and kicked in the NFL for 9 more years.

Jan Senerud was a ski jumper.  He was born in Finland and received a scholarship from Montana State to ski jump.  One day after he had run up and down the bleachers of the football field to stay in shape Jan and a friend were kicking a football around on the field.  Jan had played some soccer and he had a very strong right leg.  He was making field goals from great distances when the school’s basketball coached happened to pass by and observe.  Before he knew it the football coach wanted to see him kick.  After kicking for the football coach he was encouraged to come out for the football team.  In fact he wanted Jan to suit up for the teams final game.  He wasn’t eligible to play but the coach wanted him to wear the football uniform and learn the football rules and see how the game was played.

Following the ski season Stenerud joined the football team for spring practice.  That Fall he set an NCAA record at the time by kicking a 59 yard field goal.  Stenerud humbly admitted years later that a strong tail wind and high altitude helped his kick.  On the kickoff after his record breaking field goal he kicked the ball out of the end zone and over the bleachers behind it.

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After College Stenerud was signed by the Kansas City Chiefs.  At the time he was one of the first field goal specialists.  Back then the field goal kicker almost always played another position also.  In fact they would normally get the best kicker from the players they already had.  Stenerud helped the Chiefs win the Super Bowl following the 1969 season with his amazing field goals.  He was very accurate and his strong leg was able to kick from distances that nobody had seen before.  The first 9 points of the Super Bowl against the Minnesota Vikings were scored by Stenerud’s three field goals!

It was Christmas day 1971.   The big game was on later in the afternoon.  It was Garo’s Miami Dolphins against Jan’s Kansas City Chiefs.  The winner would advance in the playoffs and hopefully get to the Super Bowl.  The loser would be done for the season.  Many a Christmas dinner was cold that day because the game kept going on and on.  The Chiefs should have won.  Every time they took the lead however, the Dolphins came right back.  One play that stands out is when the Chiefs outsmarted themselves.  They had a 10-0 lead and were lined up for Jan to kick a 29 yard field goal.  However, Hank Stram the Chiefs coach had another idea.  He wanted to do a fake and have Stenerud run for the first down.  The snap was supposed to go straight to the kicker but when the center was about to snap the ball he saw that Jan was looking down like he normally did.  So he snapped the ball to the holder like any other field goal.  Completely out of sorts Len Dawson the Quarterback and also the holder took the snap and put it down for Jan to kick it.  Jan never made an excuse as to why he kicked the ball wide to the right but the confusion all around was a big momentum changer.

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The game was tied with just a few seconds left.  The Chiefs made a big pass play and lined up for Jan to kick a 31 yard field goal.  Jan was so amazing that season that the Dolphins just knew this was the end.  Amazingly Jan missed the field goal wide to the right again.  The game went into overtime and it went on an on.  Finally after  82 minutes and 40 seconds (more than 5 and a half quarters) Garo made a 37 yard field goal to win it.  Garo and the Dolphins were ecstatic while Jan and the Chiefs were devastated.  Looking back Garo mentioned how fitting it was that the tie salesman had broken the tie!  Although his teammates tried to make him feel better Jan could not be consoled.  He felt like that he alone had let all of his teammates down and all of the fans of the Chiefs.  He considered quitting the game he was so broken.

Even today after all of these years later Jan has no desire to talk about that game.  It was a time of personal tragedy for him.  Yet when Christmas comes around every year the memories of that game are brought up.  It’s funny that Garo’s gaffe in the next years Super Bowl is talked about in a fun way because it didn’t cost the Dolphins the game.  Jan’s miss in the longest game ever (at that time) is remembered (especially by Jan) like somebody had died.

Instead of quitting Jan persevered after the tragic loss.  His career totaled 19 years. After 8 more years in Kansas City he signed with the Green Bay Packers and kicked 4 years for them before ending his career with 2 years in a Minnesota Viking uniform. Jan was not like Garo in personality.  Garo showed his emotion when he kicked a game winner.  Garo was apt to extend his arms like he was flying.  Jan was cool as though he was just doing his job in the office.  Jan explained it best though.  “Just because I don’t do cartwheels when I make a game winning field goal doesn’t mean I’m not extremely pleased.”

His cool demeanor served Jan well and helped him to carry on after  he plunged to the ground that Christmas day.   It’s a good lesson to all of us too!  Whatever comes our way do not be distracted and keep going forward  Treat our disappointments as learning experiences and ask God to make something good come out of them.  When his career was over Jan was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  At the time he was the only kicker (who only kicked) voted into the Hall.  His final football numbers were 19 years, 6 pro bowls, 6 all league selections, 7 times scoring 100 or more points (in a 14 game season), and 1,699 career points.  The things that can’t be measured though are his persevering attitude, his pain in disappointments, and his contentment in his victories!

Secret Agent Man!

I know there are many Secret Agent’s out there!  My prayer is that you will let your light shine for all to see!

Secret Agent

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

I keep my beliefs to myself
as much Lord, as I can
Please don’t make me testify
I’ll be your secret agent man

I‘ll mingle with my co-workers,
we have to get along
But deep down in my spirit
I’ll sing your gospel song

They’ll never know just how I feel,
I’ll hide it, that’s my plan
I won’t stand out from the rest
I’m your secret agent man

I go to church on Sunday
I hope that is enough
But talking to my fellow workers,
that would be too rough

Bless me Lord, as I sit there
as quiet as a mouse
Bless the things that I do
and everyone in my house

For you know Lord, I do my best
well almost all I can
Please don’t make me stand out
I’ll be your secret agent man

The Lord talked to me the other night
while I was sound asleep
He told me I was wrong
in the attitude I keep

He said he’d be ashamed of me
if I was ashamed of him
So there he changed my attitude
after I confessed my sins

Now I don’t cover up my light
I shine it all I can
There is no place in God’s army
for a secret agent man.

corresponding verse Mark 8:38

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.

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




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.


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!


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 eve 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!

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