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Archive for the category “God looks at the heart”

Cassie’s Drum

It isn’t a pretty instrument.  It is a large bongo drum with dull colors and no shine.  It doesn’t have a very loud sound.  Usually it is drowned out by more traditional instruments.  It seems that when it is played the person playing it with only their hands is totally consumed in their worship.  I was watching a young man playing the drum last Sunday.  He sat right in front of me just like Cassie used to.  His eyes were closed as he was undoubtedly feeling the closeness of God as he played along with the main worship band.

Cassie would always come with her mother.  The first thing she did when she arrived was to find the drum.  Sometimes it was in place right by where she always sat.  Other times she had to find and drag it into position.  Almost every Sunday it was common for Cassie to be gracefully slapping that drum in front of me.  I didn’t think about it at the time but that drum was a lot like Cassie.

There was nothing fake about Cassie.   She was a straight shooter as Jeremy so eloquently described her last week.  Jeremy is my non traditional pastor who has touched my life so much these last few months. Jeremy mentioned how Cassie would sometimes tell him that she had messed up and needed prayer.  Other times she would say that she was doing great!  Cassie always told it the way it was.  She was a real person and that is why the bongo drum comparison relates.  Like that drum Cassie was often pushed aside.  She was not one of these pretty people that seemingly have no faults.  She knew she needed God to keep his hand on her and she was honest enough to admit it.

Jeremy told the story of how he originally met Cassie.  His band was playing downtown and Cassie happened to be there.    For some reason Jeremy couldn’t keep his eyes off of her.  Jeremy had a strong feeling that he was supposed to talk to this lady about the lord.  After the music was done Jeremy approached and shared Jesus with her.  Cassie had been down many roads. She had a drug problem and was looking for something different in her life.  Jeremy’s words touched her and she repeated the sinners prayer that day!

It was a while before Jeremy saw Cassie again.  Then one day her and her mother walked into Jeremy’s church.  “Hey, I know you”, Cassie excitedly proclaimed!  “You are the man I met downtown!”  From that day forward Cassie and her mother were regulars. When I arrived they were established in the body and doing their part to keep the church moving ahead!

We were invited downtown a couple of months ago to a local restaurant/bar.  Jeremy and his band were making an appearance and their music rocked the place.  Jeremy accepts the invitation because he knows his music can open the door for him to share the gospel in unusual places.  In the room glad to be a part of Jeremy’s fans was Cassie.  She was dressed in her usual jean jacket and I could tell she was proud to be there supporting him.

Three weeks ago we had our usual Sunday service.  I noticed that Cassie and her mother weren’t there.  It was easy to notice because they always sat right in front of us and she played that drum.  That morning the drum was silent.  On Monday I heard the news that shocked my world.  When her mother arrived to pick her up Cassie was in her chair but Cassie wasn’t with us anymore.

The next Sunday I was supposed to speak before Jeremy gave his message.   I was prepared to talk about how Jesus is always ready to help us unlike companies of today who put us on hold and have computers telling us what to do.  It would have been a funny message that was sure to have people laughing.  Jeremy postponed my message that day as it was appropriate to discuss Cassie’s life.

Through the week last week I had a feeling in my spirit that the message I was going to give wasn’t the one the lord wanted.  I had Cassie on my mind the whole week.  We sometimes act like a memorial service takes all of the pain away from a loss of a loved one. I have found that the continued memory of that person is the greatest comfort to the ones they left behind.  As I thought about Cassie I thought about that drum again.  She got such a delight playing that drum.  I believe that although the sound didn’t stand out it did to God!  I think that he delighted in the road she was on and the sound of her praise!

I had the drum pushed in front of the podium as I talked about Cassie.  I didn’t really know Cassie but to me that drum symbolized her.  It wasn’t shiny, it wasn’t loud, it could be easily forgotten and yet it wasn’t.  God doesn’t forget about us either.  Unlike man he is not concerned about our outside appearance but looks at our hearts.  Luke 5:31-32 states that Jesus told them”It is not the healthy that need a doctor it is the sick, I have not come to call the righteous.”  Don’t we all need Jesus?  The answer of course is yes but we have to admit that we are sick.  Many are too proud to make such an admission.  Cassie was not because she was honest and real!

After I talked Jeremy gave his message.  The drum was not moved and as I listened I couldn’t help but think of Cassie again.  Looking at that drum I knew that I was right.  It isn’t a pretty instrument.  In fact it seemed to have many flaws.  When you think about it though isn’t that the way it is with us? Who can honestly say that they are not flawed?  Yet, I am convinced that something about that drum is very special to God.  In my mind I see Cassie playing it with feeling and desire.  I see her doing exactly what she felt God wanted and that made her and her drum very beautiful in his sight!

 

A Change Of Heart

Image may contain: 1 personDr. Mugisha must be some kind of a quack, Lydia thought as she left his office.  The system is set up to take money from the foreigners.  Lydia was in a foreign land attending college at Makerere University Uganda’s largest and third oldest university.  Lydia was from Kitale, Kenya an agricultural city high in the Kenyan mountains.  She had big dreams and hoped that the “Ivory Tower” would help her fulfill them.  Although Lydia had a strong desire to succeed something was fighting against her.  It was her ability to breathe especially after the slightest exertion.  Although she sometimes struggled in the daytime the nights were her nightmare.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Catherine Marshall

When The Snapshot Picture Lies

I’ve heard that there are three truths about who we are.  There is the person that we think we are, the person other people think we are, and the person we really are.  My brother in law Dick passed away last week.  Mike, his son, was asked to say some words about his dad as we celebrated his life and he brought up a rather confusing issue.  You see Dick had many passions in life.  He loved to race (he had a dragster and ran in events throughout the country), he loved drama (and acted in plays and skits in his church and community), he loved working with young people, he loved to cook, fish, and compete in dog shows.  He also was a salesman and he loved selling.  Besides all of that he was a loving husband, father, grandfather, family member, and friend to many.  As Mike was describing all of these things he questioned aloud “now how does all of that go together?”  For instance racing and dog shows were very competitive where fishing and cooking were more relaxing.  With drama, racing, and family he was acting in a team setting, while fishing and cooking he could do individually if he wanted to.  It was a wide variety of interests that Dick had that didn’t seem to have a common denominator.

1912 Brown Backgrounds (Red Cycle) Fred Snodgrass #169 Baseball Card

Fred Snodgrass was the centerfielder on the old New York Giants baseball team in 1912.  It was a spectacular year for the Giants as they made it to the World Series.  Their opponents were the Boston Red Sox and the series went eight games.  Now days eight games in the best of seven series would not happen, however that year game two was called a tie after ten innings because of darkness.  With each team winning three games (and one tie) game eight was the decider.  In the bottom of the tenth inning the Giants had a 4-3 lead.  The first batter Clyde Engle of the Red Sox hit a high fly between Snodgrass and the left fielder.  Fred called off the other fielder, settled under the towering fly and promptly dropped the ball.  Engle reached second base on the play.  Later another Boston player was walked and they both ended up scoring.  The Red Sox won the World Series and Snodgrass was blamed by the press.  Fred Snodgrass lived 62 more years and had much business success outside of baseball.  He also had a happy family life.  When he passed away in 1974 the New York Times headline was “Fred Snodgrass 86 Dead, Missed Fly Ball in 1912 World Series.”

Bill Wambsganss Unassisted Triple Play

Bill Wambsganss had the opposite experience in the 1920 World Series.  Wambsganss played second base for the Cleveland Indians and they were in the World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Dodgers had runners on first and second and the next batter hit a line drive that looked like a sure hit.  Wambsganss raced over and leaped high in the air.  He miraculously speared the ball.  Pivoting toward second base he easily tagged the base with his foot.  He was ready to throw the ball to first base when he noticed the runner from first was confused and standing near second base.  Wambsganss trotted over and tagged him out for an unassisted triple play!  The fans didn’t realize what happened until Wambsganss was running off of the field with his teammates.  All of the sudden a loud roar engulfed the stadium and hats flew on the field!  It was the only unassisted triple play in World Series history and Wambsganss was known for that play for the rest of his life!  When he passed away at 91 the headline was “Bill Wambsganss Dies, Made Unassisted Triple Play In 1920 World Series.”

Since we cannot know everyone we sometimes get a snapshot version of them.  It is a picture in our minds of what they are all about.  It seems our brains naturally like to categorize people especially if we don’t know them well.  The truth is that what we put in our mind sometimes is just a snapshot of a time (good or bad) that we define the person as being.  The fact of the matter is that nobody can be defined by one memory.  Our lives have so many different layers and when we actually know the real person we are able to see those layers.  We might have memories and even snapshots of that person, but it isn’t any of these snapshots that define them.

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Dick was a Christian and Christ was the most important part of his life.  There were many people that knew him as a racer.  Still others knew him from directing the church youth group, and others admired his acting abilities!  He had many different layers as we all do, but the one common denominator that Mike was looking for was Christ.  You see it is OK to be passionate about many things in life.  Getting involved in different things gives us opportunities to witness the love of Christ to more people!  By taking his faith with him Dick was able to maximize his opportunities to be a witness!  Life always has it’s ups and downs.  The sum of a life is somewhere between the muffed fly ball and the unassisted triple play.  God does not look at our lives from a snapshot view.  His is a movie camera that picks up all of our good times and bad as he wants to consistently navigate us through all of our situations!  Dick had years ago given up the driver’s seat and allowed Jesus to take the wheel of his life.  Many have a picture in their mind of Dick in his racing gear driving that powerful dragster toward the finish line.  Although it is a beautiful snapshot it fails to tell the whole story!  The movie shows that Dick won his race while sitting in the passenger seat!

What’s In A Name?

There is a race car driver from Great Britain with the same name as mine!  If I Google my name I find that the first few pages are all about him!  Obviously I do not get priority because I was here first.  In the entertainment world they say to go and make a name for yourself!  He has accomplished that feat even with a used name!  We see that type of thing all of the time.  How often are you trying to find someone by name and have to weed through all of the same names to find the one you are looking for? Lewis Hamilton                                                      Lewis Hamilton (The Famous One)

I have been called three names in my lifetime.  Of course I have been called countless other names but we are talking about forms of my original name.  Lewis, Lew, and Lewie are the names I am referring to.  Each name has a distinct group of people that use it.  For instance as a kid everyone called me Lewie especially in our neighborhood.  It is the more affectionate name it seems.  Through the years playing softball and other activities people have called me Lew, and finally at work people have always called me the more proper name of Lewis.  This distinction of what people call me works well especially when someone calls my name out of the blue.  You know the instances where you are at the mall or in a store and all of the sudden someone is calling your name?  You look at the person and of course you don’t really recognize them.  Perhaps their face does look familiar but their name is not coming to you.  In these cases I use my little name game.  They called me Lewis, it has to be someone from work!  Since there are hundreds of people who work where I do that doesn’t solve my recognition problem, but at least it gives me a start!  The same goes if they called me Lewie or Lew.  Sometimes this little name trick helps keep me out of embarrassing situations of not being able to place someone.

From the moment we arrive on this earth we are given a name.  That little decision by our parents on what to name us stays with us through life in most cases.  Usually whatever name they gave us we learn to live with and actually like it.  If by chance we happen to become famous names are subject to change.  There are so many name changes of famous people that I will just give a few examples.  Did you know that John Wayne was originally Marion Morrison? How about Elton John’s birth name of Reginald Kenneth Dwight?  Listed below are a few more!

David Bowie…………..David Robert Jones

Whoopie Goldberg..   Caryn Elaine Johnson

George Burns…………  Nathan Birnbaum

Cary Grant……………   .Archibald Leach

Mark Twain……………  Samuel Langhorn Clemens

Judy Garland.………… Francis Ethel Gumm

Bob Dylan…………….. . Robert Allen Zimmerman

Carmen Electra……….Tara Patrick

Woodie Allen………….Allen Konigsberg

Rodney Dangerfield..Jacob Rodney Cohen cary-grant-320                Carey Grant and his daughter Jennifer Grant…not Archibald Leach

The list above are just a few examples of the hundreds of names that were changed to more entertainment Hollywood friendly names. Maybe these people were talented enough to make it big with their given names but in our minds the famous line “Judy, Judy, Judy”, which I heard he never said, would not be copied by comedians to imitate Archibald Leach. Would Francis Ethel Gumm have become famous for her song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow?” Maybe Jacob Rodney Cohen would get even less respect than Rodney Dangerfield!

There is a website called babynamewizard.com which when you put a first name in tells how popular the name is today.  It also states how popular the name was in years past.  It is interesting how names have changed through the years.  Usually names run in cycles with some names just as popular as in years past and some names hardly used today.  Other names that we see so popularized today were hardly used years ago.  It is fascinating to see how names people give their babies have changed through the years and how naming a child can become a copy cat type of thing.  For example the name “Alice” peaked in the 1880’s and has been declining until recently ever since.  The name “Megan” was most popular in the 70’s and 80’s and hit a steep decline in the late 90’s to the present. There is one name that never changes in importance or meaning! The name of Jesus has been exalted over all names!  Philippians chapter 2 verses 8-11 explains why. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death-even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place     and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The names of people change like the wind. The challenge for us today is  having our lives represent holiness.   You see it isn’t important what our name is.  We have no control over that.  Our challenge is to live our life Christ like so that people will see a difference.  Only through him can we become that person whose name represents something greater!  When people speak or think of us and see our face and name, what do they think about?  Is it a caring person who loves them?  Is our name synonymous with good, loving, caring, and kind?  Only through God’s grace are we saved and only through his love can our name bring thoughts of God’s loving traits to others!

It is always nice when you reserve a hotel room and upon your arrival they have your name and room ready!  One day the Lambs Book Of Life will be opened.  At that time it won’t matter if you were rich or poor, sickly or healthy, tall or short, handsome or ugly.  It won’t matter if you were in a hall of fame or lived down the hall.  Your name and all of the accolades that is associated with it on earth will not matter.  The only thing that will matter is if you are in that book!  Jesus has prepared a place for us!  All he asks is that we make our reservation so that when the book is opened our name will be there!  I don’t know if God will use our names as we were known here on earth or a name he gives us!  The most important thing is that it is us and that our name is remembered and our room is waiting!

lambs_book_1

God’s Hall of Fame
by Walt Huntley

Your name may not appear down here
In this world’s Hall of Fame
In fact, you may be so unknown
That no one knows your name;

The oscars and the praise of men
May never come your way,
But don’t forget God has rewards
That He’ll hand out someday,

This Hall of Fame is only good
As long as time shall be;
But keep in mind, God’s Hall of Fame
Is for eternity;

To Have your name inscribed up there
Is greater more by far
Than all the fame and all the praise
Of ev’ry man-made star.

This crowd on earth they soon forget
When you’re not at the top,
They’ll cheer like mad until you fall
And then their praise will stop;
Not God, He never does forget,
And in His Hall of Fame,
By just believing on His son,
Forever- there’s your name.

I tell you, friend, I wouldn’t trade
My name, however small,
That’s written there beyond the stars
In that celestial Hall,
For all the famous names on earth,
Or glory that they share;
I’d rather be an unknown here,
And have my name up there.

Getting Past The Cover

Years ago we had a big kid that we invited to play softball on our team.  He was a body builder and his muscles bulged from his arms and chest in a powerful appearance!  In fact he looked like a slightly smaller version of Arnold Schwartzennegger!  We figured that surely he would be hitting home runs at a rapid pace!  Our opponents saw the big guy coming up and positioned their outfield way back by the home run fence.  Unfortunately the correlation of his massive body muscles and his ability to hit the softball did not match.  The fact was he had a hard time getting the ball out of the infield.  His hits were bloopers just over the infield that dropped into the outfield as the fearful outfielders desperately ran in to no avail.  After awhile the big guy quit the team out of embarrassment and I believe a pulled muscle.

He was built like Arnold!

He was built like Arnold!

If you look at an early picture of the company listed below you probably wouldn’t be impressed.  The order of the day in the corporate world was more of a clean cut sharp suit image.  Yet here was this renegade company with a different look competing for our business.  Looking back we all wish we would have invested in their company back then.  We all have to admit though that it would have been hard to get past the cover of the book and into the real contents.

Would you have invested with this company?

Would you have invested with this company?

Today the Microsoft Corporation is worth over 230 billion dollars!  Yet if you went on the “book cover” for the young company in 1978 I doubt you would have trusted them with your money.  Needless to say things are not always as they appear.  Sometimes our sight can deceive us if we are looking at appearance without the willingness to dig into the book!  Sometimes we miss golden opportunities to read fascinating books because the cover is not fancy.  Other times we are very disappointed because the contents of the book do not match the wonderful promises that the cover provides.   Pictured on the bottom left is a young Bill Gates.  Who would have dreamed of the future fame he would obtain from this very humble picture?

Sitka Alaska is the hometown of Brent Cunningham.  Brent is a Young Life Director there.  To say that Sitka Alaska is a place that nothing much happens is probably an understatement.  It is a waterlocked fishing town with a couple of fisheries and a refueling port for cruise ships.  A standard reaction to Brent showing up at the Boston Marathon would be “What is a man from Sitka, Alaska doing at the Boston Marathon?”

The start of the Boston Marathon

The start of the Boston Marathon

Brent had tried to qualify twice for the Boston Marathon without success.  On his third try he barely got in under the qualifying time wire! There Brent was though in the midst of a gigantic crowd at the start of the Boston Marathon.  Sandwiched between tons of people from all over the world!  Little did Brent or anyone know the unexpected events that awaited them.  He did know that he was finally going to live his dream of competing in the Boston Marathon!  What a thrill it would be if he could finish after his disappointments of the past!  How great would it feel to show his friends back home the finishers award that comes to so few.  Brent ran his race that day and received his medal for finishing!  He was proudly wearing his medal around his neck and walking back to the hotel with his wife when the bombs went off.  Moments later they came across a young woman runner named Laura Wellington who was sitting by the curb crying maybe a half a mile from the finish line.  The race officials had stopped the race and Laura had just gotten word that her family was safe as they were up by the finish line.  Brent and his wife gave Laura comfort with kind words and placed a blanket on her shoulders to keep her warm.  As they got up to leave Brent asked Laura if she had finished the race?  “No” was her reply.  Feeling how disheartened she must have felt and knowing how much the medal meant to him for finishing, he slowly took it off of his neck and placed it on hers!  Names were never exchanged as Brent gave his gift without the thought of how much he would miss the precious reminder of his great accomplishment.   Quickly he and his wife walked away.  If it wasn’t for the vast social media networks we have today we never would have heard this story.  Laura was determined though to find this person who was so kind to her and she did!  Brent didn’t do his deed of kindness for recognition.  He did it for no other reason than to make Laura feel good!

Sitka, Alaska

Sitka, Alaska

The odd conclusion to the story is that Laura ended up with a medal for finishing a race that she didn’t finish and Brent doesn’t have a medal for finishing even though he did.  Once again we can’t judge a book by it’s cover can we?  As the Bible states “man looks at the outside, but God looks at the heart.”  It would also be true to say that man looks at possessions as things that you should store away but God looks at them as something to give to others.  When God looks at what we possess it has nothing to do with money or things, but attitude.  He cuts through what we look like or what other people see us as.  He reads the whole book that starts with what we do and why we do it.  He takes notes to reward people later who unselfishly give of their time and possessions to make someone elses life better.  You could say that man looks at the book cover but God looks at the contents!  Man looks at a persons social status, what their profession is, where they come from, and what their parents do.  God looks at all of us individually.  It is all the same to God whether we are from New York City or Sitka, Alaska, whether we are a doctor or a garbage man.  I’m pretty sure that when Laura looks at that medal she see’s Brents face and thinks about the love he shared that day.  I’m also pretty sure that Brent doesn’t miss the medal he had because God has replaced it with an inner peace that you can read in the contents of his book!

Grandfather Finds A Home

Standing tall by the side of the road next to a TV he looked so out of place.  I almost had to do a double take as I drove by.  I pulled over, parked my car and knocked on the door.  I had to find out why grandfather was just standing there.  After a little while a lady appeared.  I asked her why I was seeing this sight on the road?  She said that she was tired of dealing with things that didn’t work.  An idea was brewing in my head.  Maybe if this grandfather was in a different setting with a little tender loving care he could be useful again!

Grandfather in this case wasn’t a person but a beautiful clock.  Grandfather clocks used to be called long case clocks.  That all changed in 1876 when a song came out about grandfather’s long case clock by American Henry Clay Work.  Henry was visiting England and he was at a place called Piercebridge, North Yorkshire at a hotel called the George Inn.  While he was there he saw a long case clock in the hallway.  The clock was not running and it was explained to Henry that the clock had not worked since it’s grandfatherly owner had died.  With the idea of that clock in his head, when he  got back to America he  wrote a song called “My Grandfathers Clock.”  The song was told in the grandsons view about his grandfather and his clock.  In the song the clock was purchased when grandfather was born and died along with him when he was 90.  The song became so popular that the long case clocks became known as grandfather clocks.

Joyce Lefebure of Cedar Rapids has a clock especially made for the outside in her yard.  The clock I saw was not built for this purpose.
Joyce Lefebure of Cedar Rapids, IA  has a
Grandfather Clock in her front yard especially
made for the outside. The clock I saw from the
road was an indoor clock.

My dad was retired at the time and I went to his house on a mission for assistance.  Dad was happy to help and we set off on the road to where grandfather was standing.  I feared that someone else had discovered him and taken him away.  Fortunately as we got closer to the house I saw him still standing tall there! We didn’t have a truck or anything made to carry a clock almost seven feet tall.  We ended up putting him in the back of the trunk in such a way that about half  was overhanging out the back.  I drove carefully and made it home.  We were able to carry grandfather into the living room and set him up.

It was a few days later as I was looking through the shopper paper we used to get.  In it there was an ad that caught my eye.  A man that fixed grandfather clocks was advertising his services.  I quickly gave him a call and he came out that week.  I didn’t know anything about grandfather clocks and was wondering the value of this one.  The man informed me that my clock was a hand made clock.  Apparently someone had decided to build a clock and in a labor of love they did.  I would not find a brand name on this clock where I could access a value.  Although my clock had a monetary value when working, it’s sentimental value should have been enormous!  After all this clock was hand crafted, probably a gift for someone deeply loved!

My mind drifted back to the repair person.  He was working away with a delicate touch slowly tuning the clock with his expert hands.  It was all about the balancing of the weights he told me.   Being such a novice I couldn’t really comprehend all that he was doing.  He worked quickly turning something here and there and listening ever so closely as it ran.  In no time he had  my clock clicking away in perfect rhythm.  He set the chimes  so they rang nicely on the quarter hours!  The fee was very reasonable and he left me with a real treasure.

Years passed as grandfather did his job in grand style.  Then one day we must have wound him a little too tight because grandfather stopped ticking.  I tried to make him work time and again in the days ahead and he worked for maybe a ten minutes span before stopping again.  I couldn’t find the name of the repairman who started him up years ago so he stood without a purpose for awhile.  The side of the road was not an option for my beautiful clock.  Even though he wasn’t able to fulfill his purpose I still thought he gave the room a special unique look!  I still had hopes that his reliable constant ticking would return.  My sister came over one day and noticing grandfather was not working mentioned that her friends son repairs grandfather clocks.  We had him come over and in no time grandfather was ticking in a nice rhythm again!  Once again it was an easy fix for the expert as he balanced the weights properly and used some oil to lubricate the parts.   Since that day the only times he has stopped running were when I had forgotten to wind him.  He needs to be wound once a week but that little exercise is so worthwhile!

There have been times when storms came by and all of the clocks in the house quit running.  All the clocks that is except for dependable grandfather who doesn’t need electricity!  He just desires a little care once a week and after that he performs his job quietly and efficiently.  Some of the lyrics from the original song describe my grandfather clock.

My grandfather said that of those he could hire,
Not a servant so faithful he found;
For it wasted no time, and had but one desire —
At the close of each week to be wound.

Grandfather and Me

Grandfather and Me

Grandfather was uniquely created and individually worked on.  He was not the product of an assembly line. He came to be because his creator loved making him and loved the usefulness he would fulfill!   That is exactly how and why Gods hands created us.  He made us unique in our own way! He made us to serve a purpose in this big world he put us in.  What joy it would be to be called a faithful servant, the  kind the grandfather labeled his clock as!

There are times when we feel that the purpose God created us for has become lost in the shuffle. We may feel hopelessly out of place as circumstances change and we don’t feel needed anymore.  Sometimes we feel like we are the clock on the side of the road, totally out of sorts and totally useless.  Other times we may feel like the clock, seemingly in the right place but functionless none the less.  A quick call to our God and creator can change everything!  As with my clock it is probably just a matter of balancing things as he lovingly will tune our lives for his glory.  Our life story is like a book he has written and it has many chapters.  We are down here living out the story.  God can and will open and close chapters in our life book as he maximizes our usefulness.  Just because one chapter is ending doesn’t mean our book ends.  Usually a new chapter very different than the old is just beginning and in the new chapter grandfather isn’t standing by the side of the road anymore!

Click below to hear “My Grandfather’s Clock”

http://www.muzu.tv/fosterandallen/my-grandfathers-clock-music-video/681622/

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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?

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