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Archive for the category “Lessons From TV Shows”

God’s Party

What would you do if I sang out of tune
Would you stand up and walk out on me ?
Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song
And I’ll try not to sing out of key
Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm, I get high with a little help from my friends
Mm, gonna try with a little help from my friends

The original song was written by the Beatles but the version I remember was sang by Joe Cocker.  It was the theme song for The Wonder years which is one of my all time favorite shows!  The story is about Kevin Arnold who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s.  The fact that he was one year older than me in the story helped me to relate to many of the episodes and similar things I went through.  All of the episodes were about Kevin and how he remembered the times of his life and his memories of his mom, dad, and his brother Wayne who was two years older.  Kevin also had a sister who went off to college and was written off the show.

One of my favorite episodes was called “The Lost Weekend.”  It was in the fifth season and Kevin was a sophomore in high school.  Wayne at that time was a senior.  Their parents were going to go away for the weekend to an out of town wedding.  They left the boys to watch the house and to do the chores their father assigned.  No sooner had they pulled out of the driveway Wayne informed Kevin that he had other plans.  He was going to a Beer Keg party that night and his Saturday was also booked too.  On one hand Kevin was upset with Wayne that he was ditching him.  On the other hand Kevin thought of the possibilities of having the whole house to himself.  At school that day he mentioned to his four main friends during lunch that he had the house to himself.  Right away a couple of his adventurous friends suggested that they should do something.  After all how often would this opportunity come up?  Kevin was doubtful until his best friend Paul mentioned that if Kevin didn’t want to do anything that was fine.  Kevin had a responsibility to his parents.  In typical Kevin style that statement was what tipped him over the edge.  When Paul made a goody two shoes statement Kevin usually went in the other direction.  “We could do something”, he stated and suggested a poker game.

That night after about an hour of dull poker playing everyone was getting bored.  Someone suggested that they should invite some girls over.  Kevin agreed to the plan as long as everyone just invited one girl.  When the girls arrived they were not alone.  They had invited friends to come with them. Apparently they also spread the news that there was a party at Kevin’s house!  It didn’t take long before people were at Kevin’s door that he didn’t even know.  They made their way in and in no time Kevin was throwing the biggest party he had ever seen.  Kevin’s friend Chuck called Kevin from a local store where he had apparently forgot his I.D.  He was attempting to buy beer and Kevin brought his I.D. to him.  It turned out that the I.D. was a fake and Chuck wasn’t allowed to buy the beer.  As Kevin was yelling at Chuck for this whole mess they overheard a hippy group in the parking lot talking about a big party they were going to.  Some kid named Arnold they said which was Kevin’s last name.  The last person left the party at 4 in the morning and the house was totally a mess.  Empty beer cans, spilled drinks, pictures askew, messy food items everywhere, cigarette butts, and whatever else you can think filled the house when the party was over.  When Wayne came home later that day he laughed at his brothers mess.  “Boy are you in big trouble”, he chuckled.  “Wayne, you have to help me clean up this mess,” Kevin pleaded.

As Wayne was laughing about Kevin’s statement their parents pulled into the driveway.  Apparently they decided to come home a few hours early.  As his parents were discovering the destruction of their beloved home Kevin was contemplating what punishment they would find worthy of his deed.  His father surprisingly turned to Wayne.  “Wayne how could you?”  When Kevin tried to speak up his father was quick to reprimand him.  “Kevin, you stay out of this!”  To his credit Wayne took the fall.  He didn’t blame Kevin, he just told his parents that he was sorry and it would never happen again.

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In Luke chapter 15 the younger of two sons requested his inheritance.  He was going to find out what he was missing, live it up at the world’s party and have fun!  Unlike Kevin, he was inviting the party and the more the merrier.  After a while all of his high living had caught up with him.  He was out of money and the party was over.  As long as he was the life of the party and financed it he was one popular guy.  After the money was gone everyone left in search of the next fool to come their way.  Kevin also felt the same way after his party.  All that was left after everyone departed was a mess.  Nobody cared whose party it was, only that there was a party and they were happy to go.  When the night was done everyone was happy except Kevin and eventually his parents.  The prodigal as he is referred to in the Bible found himself making a living feeding pigs.  At that point he came to his senses.  Even the workers for my father live much better than I am.  I will go home to my father and tell him I am not worthy to be his son.  I will ask for a job working the fields with the other workers.  When he was still far away his father saw him and came running to meet him.  The prodigal son tried to explain that he was unworthy but his father heard none of it!  Get the fattest calf and kill it.  We are going to celebrate.  My son was dead but now he is alive!  He was going to have a party in his sons honor!  This is like how our Father in Heaven feels about us!  He wants to have a party for us once we come to our senses and come back home!

The son’s brother was not happy about the situation.  He found out from one of his fathers servants that his brother was getting a party.  The brother was bitter and jealous and hateful.  He decided that he would not honor his brother with his presence.  Instead he stayed away and when his father noticed he was not there he came looking for him.  The brother was bitter and his father told him how it was.  “My son was dead but now is alive”, he said.  We are never told whether the brother took his fathers words to heart and attended his brothers party.  If he did he would have had to have a change of attitude and his hatred turned to love.  Everyone at that party wanted to be there because they loved the father and were celebrating his sons return with him!

So the question I ask you today is which party are you going to?  Are you going to the world’s party where you are the life of the party until it destroys your house? In that party nobody cares and everyone will quickly leave when your resources diminish.  On the other hand you could be going to God’s party.  That is a party where you are celebrated not by what resources you have but because you have made your way back home!  God’s party is a party of love.  God has already paid for your party and everyone there loves you!  In that party you are the guest of honor!  In answer to the songs lyrics God will never stand up and walk out on us because we have sang out of tune.  He loves us and welcomes us home no matter what we do.  It is true that sometimes we get by with a little help from our friends.  God puts good friends in our lives to help us see his light in troubling situations.  However we find out from these stories that sometimes the people that we think are our friends are only our fair weather friends.  Sometimes it is our own brothers or sisters that let us down.  When the chips are down they may scatter far away.  Whatever the weather is like in our lives God is waiting to have a party for us!  It is a party of love in our honor and he is delighted to throw it because we were once dead but now we are alive!

Heavenly Banquet Table
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That’s The Way It Is?

My dad would always watch the news.  First they had the local news from 6 til 6:30 and then the national news from 6:30 til 7.  Growing up I watched a lot of news too.  I’m sure I would have watched a different show if it were my choice.  Walter Cronkite was the news anchor in those years and for my dad he was must see TV.  Cronkite had a catch phrase that he used to close his broadcast.  You could count on him at around a minute or two til seven to say “that’s the way it is” along with the date and “this is Walter Cronkite CBS News goodnight.”  I never thought about disputing his catch phrase in those years.  He was almost like a member of the family as he gave us the news every weekday.  Visiting my parents years later I often caught the news with them.  I remember when Walter would make his standard sign off my dad saying “goodnight Walter.”  It was like a trusted relative coming over and letting us in on all of the news of the world and then saying goodbye for another night.

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I never thought about the accuracy of Cronkite’s sign off until I had a class in college.  I don’t remember which class it was but it was one of the general education classes that met a requirement.  How the news was broadcast on TV was under inspection.  It was stated that the news lasted a half an hour.  However with commercials in there it was reduced to like 24 minutes.  How could someone in 24 minutes possibly give us all of the news of the world?  I had never thought about it that way.  I do recall in a high school class one time they showed a film on Cronkite.  It was a documentary that had a camera follow him on a typical day.  He was also the editor and chief of what got broadcasted.  The day we saw him was a day that was very typical as far as the film told us.  There were stories coming in from everywhere the entire day.  The trick of his job was to extract what he considered “the important” news to the most viewers into his allotted time.  There were many stories that got disqualified because they were deemed not as important to the masses.  It was Cronkite as editor and chief who made the final decision.

Cronkite first took over the news anchor desk from Douglas Edwards in 1962. He only accepted the promotion with the agreement that he would be editor and chief.  Since nobody was really concerned with that specific title he got his wish.  At first his time slot was only 15 minutes and his sign off was not popular with others at the network.  He was saying that to get further details of the stories visit your local newspaper. The higher ups didn’t like his advertising for the newspapers.   They ended up increasing his news segment to a half an hour so that he could expand on his headlines better.  They encouraged him to come up with a new sign off on his broadcasts.  Cronkite came up with the “That’s the way it is” slogan.  The CBS officials still didn’t like his sign offs.  How could anyone tell the viewers that’s the way it is when they only had 30 minutes to tell them?  All of the news couldn’t possibly be reported and that clearly wasn’t totally the way it was.  Still Cronkite being the editor and chief kept the slogan and we as viewers truly thought that Walter was telling us everything he knew.

I was talking to someone lately about the news story I am now writing.  I mentioned that we don’t normally see good news on the news, only bad.  It was stated back to me that they didn’t think good news would sell.  Maybe we are trained to be on the defensive and to be aware of anything that could damage us.  The news if you think about it is reported like a weather report.  The same way the upcoming weather affects our days and weeks the news is reported likewise.  “There is a storm brewing to the west” we might be warned.  I suppose at least with the weather we can prepare ourselves by getting our raincoat and umbrella ready.  Maybe we might have to cancel our plans for that golf outing on Saturday.  With the news there is usually nothing we can do about it.  It’s not like we can change the activities of the president or some other countries leaders.  I think about how this new knowledge I have received affects how I live my life?  The answer almost all of the time is that the only effect that it has is to make me worry about the situation.

Although I might not seek the news these days it is difficult to avoid it.  Instead of a given time slot today the news is 24-7.  It’s interesting that you can watch the same half hour of news over and over without any changes.  The shows are taped and just repeated one after the other.  If you watch long enough the show gets embedded into your mind.  Not only do you know the news you can repeat word for word what the comments are and where they will go next.  It isn’t like it is new news.  I might see the show in the early morning and later at night the same show is repeated.  It normally isn’t until the next day that we get the new news.  It obviously doesn’t meet the requirement of telling us all of the news.  It’s still only a half an hour. Truly it still isn’t really the way it is.

We have a choice in life.  We can always be looking for doom and gloom or we can look at the bright side of life!  We are usually not given the bright side from the newsroom. It desires to tell us what is wrong in the world and what we should and must fear.  If I start watching too much of the news they care to share I tend to get upset and involved in things I have no control over.  I have learned that there is plenty of good news out there if you seek it!  The fact that we are here is good news.  If we look around us we see much more good news than bad.  I choose to look at the glass as half full instead of half empty!

As Christians we don’t have to live in fear of the news.  Whatever is going on in the world is out of our hands anyway.  We should pray for our leaders and leave the rest up to God.  He is in control and he will guide us in our lives no matter what is going on around us.  I mentioned that rarely is good news seen in the news broadcasts.  There is one book that offers good news to all of us!  It is the Holy Bible and it states that Jesus came to earth as a man and died for our sins.  By asking for forgiveness we will inherit a heavenly home when we leave this earth!  That is news that I don’t mind hearing over and over! It’s news that totally makes a difference in my life and how I live my life!  It is not a message of fear but of hope!  Now that’s the way it truly is!

Picking Our Gifts!

They say that one mans junk is another mans treasure.  From watching the show American Pickers I’ve learned that one mans treasure can be another mans treasure too.  I’ve also seen cases where one mans forgotten treasure is dug out (much like digging for buried treasure!) American Pickers is a Reality TV show.  It’s concept was started by Mike Wolfe.  Mike explains his love for finding treasures like this.  “When I was five, I had my first big score when I found a pile of old bicycles in my neighborhood trash one day.  And I was always bringing home old bottles and other random stuff.  I never thought of it as junk, to me, it was beautiful.”

https://i1.wp.com/www.entrepreneur.com/dbimages/article/the-business-of-history-american-pickers-mike-wolfe-vw-bug.jpg

 

When Mike was in his twenties he raced bicycles competitively which led to him opening a bicycle store and repair shop in his hometown of Bettendorf, Iowa.  At that time people were always telling him about vintage bikes for sale which he would buy and flip for extra cash.  Later he expanded the idea buying Italian scooters and motorcycles.  Finding treasures became more than just a hobby, so he closed his bicycle shop, bought a van and started a new business called Antique Archeology.  Mike considers his job truly amazing as he gets to find treasures from all over the country and meet amazing people with stories to tell about them!

The reality show “American Pickers” stars Mike and Frank Fritz (Mike calls him Frankie who owns his own shop up the river in Savanna, Illinois.)  Danielle Colby-Cushman works in Mike’s business in Le Claire, Iowa and later a second location in Nashville, TN. Danielle gives Mike and Frank leads as they travel to different locations throughout the country.  Danielle handles the business while Mike is gone and we see people coming into the store and her duties too.  This gives a good perspective of the entire business as Mike and Frank are always followed in a Mercedes Sprinter van and later in a Ford Transit searching for treasures.

Danielle holding down the fort!

Danielle holding down the fort!

Antique Archaeology

Antique Archaeology

Sometimes when they are out and about without a lead Mike and Frankie do something they call “free styling.”  After introducing themselves to an unsuspecting person answering the door Mike or Frank shake their hand. “We’re pickers”, one of them will offer.  They then give the person a list of things they might be interested in.  Usually they pick places that look like they have an over abundance of things in their yard for free styling opportunities. There are times that these “cold calls” work just as well as the appointments Danielle is able to set up.  They end up searching barns, sheds, or yards of collectors, hoarders, and occasionally people who have inherited overwhelming collections of what they might see as junk.  Opportunities to unload some of their items and make some money appeal to many that are on Mike and Frankie’s path.

To be honest I have become interested in the show only in maybe the last year.  Running through the TV channels I’d see “American Pickers” listed on the guide but never took the time to see what it was about.  “Pickers” are people that go through other peoples stuff and find things that are valuable to them.  Things they don’t pick aren’t necessarily not valuable.  Sometimes Mike and Frankie pass on something valuable because either it is too expensive or it doesn’t fit into what they like to buy.  That being said Mike’s business has expanded into buying most things that he deems valuable if the price is right.

I have discovered in the episodes that there are basically three types of owners of things that Mike and Frankie look through.  There are the ones that have an unorganized mess of things, the ones who have somewhat of an organization but still it is somewhat messy, and the ones who have everything in order and in great condition.  There are also different attitudes about the stuff that they own.  Some are anxious to sell and sometimes vastly under estimate the value of stuff that they have.  Some are willing to sell certain things but certain items are not for sale.  Lastly is the people that treasure their items so much that nothing is for sale.

Mike and Frankie

I am amazed at times when Mike or Frankie happen to stumble on an item buried in a pile and ask for a price only to find that it isn’t for sale.  Sometimes it is an item that the person forgot that they have.  Then there are times especially with the collections that are in great shape the owner knows the value and it shows in the price they want for the item.  Even though they have tons to offer sometimes they are unwilling to sell unless they get top dollar.  Finally there are the people that are happy to sell just to get rid of the items.  To their credit I have seen both Mike and Frankie offer more than what the person wanted because they knew the item was valuable and they could re-sell it!

I’m thinking about this whole pickers thing and it occurs to me that God is a picker too!  Now don’t get me wrong, he is not interested in material things.  In the show Mike and Frank are strangers to these people.  Let’s say that the person wanting something in their pile was a son or daughter that they loved very much.  I’ll bet they would be willing to give that loved family member anything that they wanted if it made them happy! We all have valuable gifts that God has given each of us!  How many of us know we are gifted and don’t necessarily want to give our gifts to God?  How many of us have a big pile of gifts that we haven’t used in years and sometimes we forget we even have them, yet when God asks for our gifts we don’t want to give them up?  God wants us to freely give what is given to us for his glory!  We need to be like those people whose attitudes are “if you can use my gift, I’m willing to give it to you.  Let our prayer be “God, I am yours and everything that I have and that I am is yours.  Please take anything that I have to offer and use it for your glory because you gave the ultimate gift to me and I love you with all of my heart!

As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another , as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

I Peter 4:10

 

 

The Star Of The Show!

I recently purchased a book about the old time talk show host Mike Douglas. The Mike Douglas Show started on December 11, 1961 in Cleveland Ohio.  In 1965 the show moved to Philadelphia, PA and in 1979 to Los Angeles, CA.  I thought the book would provide some interesting reading and it didn’t disappoint. He told about his guests on the show as he picked out memorable episodes from his vast memory of his unheard of 21 year run! Mike had the show to watch in the early afternoons on weekdays!  I remember coming home from school and Mike being on.  His show was always high in the ratings of most watched early afternoon shows.  He had all of the big stars of the day on his show. From Bob Hope to Moe Howard and everyone in between, Mike made all of them feel comfortable and they opened up to him in ways they wouldn’t any other questioner. Mike also had a way of making people laugh as they recounted some kind of hilarious story he questioned them about.  He could ask questions in such a way that they exposed some of themselves and we got to see the true person.  It was fun for his guests too as they enjoyed showing the audience a different side of them that was never told in their Hollywood image!

There have been countless talk shows that have aired at the time and after Mike’s show.  What made the Mike Douglas show so special?  Why was it so popular in it’s long run?  I think the answer to that question goes right back to it’s host.  Mike was born Michael Delaney Dowd, Jr., in Chicago, Illinois. He began singing as a choirboy but in his teens he worked as a singer on a Lake Michigan Dinner Cruise Ship. He served briefly in the United States Navy near the end of World War II and was a “staff singer” for WMAQ-TV in Chicago, before moving to Los Angeles. Mike got a job on the Ginny Simms radio show before joining the big band of Kay Kyser as a singer. The Big Band Era faded after WW2 but Kyser’s band had to keep performing due to contractual obligations, and continued to log a few hits with Douglas, including two notable hits, “Ole [or Old] Buttermilk Sky” in 1946 and “The Old Lamplighter.” Kyser gave Mike his show business name but had to retire in 1951 because of health problems.  One of Mikes big breaks came in 1950, when he was chosen to be the singing voice of Prince Charming in Walt Disney’s Cinderella animation!. In the 1950s, Mike  tried to keep his singing career going, working as a house singer for a nightclub and going on the road to stay busy. By the mid fifties, rock-and-roll and doo wop had taken over the charts, which left Mike looking for other opportunities.  In the leanest years, he and his wife survived by successfully “flipping” their Los Angeles homes.

A friend from way back was working for Westinghouse at the time. He remembered Mike from earlier days as their paths had crossed.  Westinghouse was willing to sponsor a “new talk show” and they needed a host.  A surprise phone call one day turned Mike’s world upside down as he was chosen to host the new show.  Step by step the show increased it’s popularity.  Mike tried to get interesting guests and the show took off!  For quite awhile Mike wasn’t getting paid what a show host on TV everyday would normally get.  Even though he was on every day and the show was in his name he seemed unappreciated in the financial realm.  In the beginning Mike was just happy to be needed and to have a show.  The producers must have felt delighted that they were able to get such a great host for literally nothing. Finally the discrepancy was made right and Mike’s salary began to match his contribution to the show.

At the start of his show the announcer would say “and here is the star of the show, Mike Douglas!”  Mike would come on and usually use his great singing voice to croon out a beautiful tune.  Even though Mike was introduced as “the star of the show” his desire was not to be the star of the show at all.  His duty in his mind was to make his guests the stars of the show.  He would have a different celebrity co-host every week.  That in itself took some of the limelight off of him. Most of the time Mike engaged his guest in conversation but there were times he set up a demonstration of his guests skills.  Whether it was singing, cooking, throwing pies, or dancing on stilts as one guest did it was all fun! When people watched Mike’s show they didn’t really think about Mike.  Mike was the constant for sure but his guests were what people remembered!  Mike was like a big mirror that reflected the attention off of him and onto his guests.  The concept worked so well only because Mike was comfortable in his own skin.  He didn’t feel like he needed to prove anything or become a star.  He delighted in the stories his guests told and his questions led them into many more!  It was this humbleness in Mike that stands out so fresh as I’m watching old reruns of the show!  He probably wasn’t fully appreciated at the time, but looking back he was pure genius.

The stage on The Mike Douglas show was very simple.  In fact there were chairs of all the same height lined up.  Mike generally sat on the right side with his guests to his left.  Just in the setup of the stage you could tell that Mike just wanted to blend in and not stand out.  Think about the talk shows we see today.  On shows such as The Tonight Show the host is generally behind a desk. To their right we see the guests as the host sits higher and talks down to them.  You may not have thought about it before but take a look the next time you are watching a late night talk show.  Positioning says a lot about how the show wants to be betrayed and that is to leave little doubt who the real star is.  Mike was more of a director as he led his show in a direction and let his guests be themselves and enjoy the limelight!  His big mirror reflected his guests talents and made his show so unique in the “Hollywood Star World.”

So I ask this question of you today “Who is the star of your show?”  Are you the star?  Do you sit on the higher chair and have all of the honors go to you?  As Christians we are supposed to shine God’s light as we acknowledge the true star!  The light is only on us because it is reflected from him!  Like Mike Douglas we may not feel appreciated.  We may not be getting recognized for all that we do.  It will be a situation much like looking back on The Mike Douglas show that our lives will be remembered as special.  Whether he was paid handsomely or barely survived Mike Douglas did not change.  He was a big mirror that took the attention off of himself and onto others.  In the end we look back and appreciate Mike’s gift much like when people will look back and remember our lives and reflect on who the real star was in our show!

When The Door Clangs Shut It’s Prison Reality

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

Denny McLain -from a star to a number to forgiveness

Denny McLain -from a star to a number to forgiveness

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

You realize you have no rights in prison

You realize you have no rights in prison

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

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

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

 An inmate killer gets Williams attention!

An inmate killer gets Williams attention!

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

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

An experience hopefully not repeated for real

An experience hopefully not repeated for real

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke 16:27-28

Taking A Flying Leap

When I was in Junior High one of my favorite shows was Big Time Wrestling.  Back in the late 60’s and early 70’s wrestling came on once a week on Saturday afternoons.  Like today wrestling had it’s characters and the hype of coming matches was much of the entertainment.  The show had a local flavor as BoBo Brazil, the Heavyweight champion, hailed from Benton Harbor, Michigan which is not that far from my town Kalamazoo.  There was always an appeal as a wrestler would talk about having Big Time Wrestling come to your local school as a fund raiser.  The  matches shown on TV were actually mismatches as you knew when the match started who the winner would be.  It was all about the star wrestler making an appearance and then promoting his upcoming match against a hated opponent.  Still at that young age I really thought that the matches were real.  After all wrestlers would actually bleed sometimes and the show was performed so precisely.  One of the wrestlers that I remember so well was named Flying Fred Curry.  His name was symbolic with the flying drop kicks that he performed in his matches.  Flying Fred would leave his feet and kick his legs out into his opponents head or chest area.  When he was at the peak of his leap his body was positioned as if he were lying down in the air.  After he made contact with his opponent he naturally fell down on the mat but was quick to jump up and deliver as many drop kicks as it took to finish his match.  Sometimes Flying Fred would do this maneuver seven or eight straight times!  Invariably his opponent would be staggering around like he was drunk and would be totally caught off guard by Flying Freds maneuvers!

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                                                           Flying Fred Curry

It was a Saturday afternoon and I was glued to my wrestling show when I received a disruptive phone call.  I had to drag myself away from the action only to find that it was Lloyd, a friend down the road.  Lloyd was a friend, but he was very opinionated and very dominating.  He never backed down from an argument and had his own agenda in mind.  When I think about it now it is probably the kind of attributes leaders of today are recruited for.  Anyway Lloyd had the idea that we should take care of Richmonds field before we played the next game. Richmonds field was a big piece of land located behind Richmond’s house.  It was very large and we had no problem playing our football or baseball games there.  Lloyd was going to bring his mower over and we were all supposed to work on the field.  Of course that was his plan.  In my mind as far as I was concerned, his plan had to wait.  I was in the middle of my wrestling show and nothing was going to stop me from seeing the upcoming matches, interviews, and coming attractions!  Lloyd called right at the beginning of my show and of course he wanted everyone there promptly.  After I watched the entire broadcast including Flying Fred doing his thing with his dropkicks, I left for the field.

When I arrived, an hour late in Lloyd’s mind, he started ranting “Lazy Lou”, “Lazy Lou” and he did this rant over and over and over again in a very loud voice. It was very embarrassing to me to be accused of being lazy in front of my friends.   I don’t know what the other kids were thinking but I was upset.  Lloyd was a big kid both in height and weight.  I was always one of the littlest kids in the games.  Yet the more he ranted the more I became angry.  On and on and on he went.  Finally I could take no more!  I was maybe twenty yards from him when I started my charge.  Lloyd was standing by where home plate was and I could see the surprised look on his face.  At full speed I launched myself in the air just like Flying Fred!  In fact I think that Flying Fred would have been proud of the form in which I imitated his kick.  Finding myself in that parallel to the ground position I was about to make contact with Lloyd’s chest when the unexpected happened.  Instead of being frozen in his surprise like Flying Freds opponents, Lloyd grabbed on to my legs and pulled.  My head came crashing into the hard ground and I was knocked out.

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                                    It always worked on TV!

When I came to a minute or two later everyone was gathered around me.  Lloyd, probably fearful that I was seriously hurt and that he instigated my actions, didn’t say anything more about my not helping with the field.  I don’t remember if we played a game or two that day but I think we probably did.  I know I never mentioned the incident to my parents.  I was feeling fine and probably put it in the back of my mind.

The story I just told was a time when I literally took a flying leap. Many people do not know it but they are taking a flying leap too.  The difference in my flying leap and theirs is that their leap may be dangerous to their soul.  This thought came to mind when I heard a speaker talk the other day.  He was supposed to talk about the sustainability of our planet.  His message was supposed to be on how we can’t keep doing some of the things we are doing and expect the planet to sustain us.  He got to his topic in a round about way however.  He started talking about the beginning of the earth and the planets according to how he believed. He said that about one hundred million years ago there was a big bang and everything was formed.  He said it like it was a fact everyone should know without the theory word in there at all. 

I have to shake my head at this theory that someone put out there and people believe.  It’s like my belief years ago that wrestling on TV was real.  As I vaulted myself feet first into the air I was fully committed to what I believed and the consequences that followed.  I found out the hard way that everything you see or hear isn’t true.  I found out that when you believe in something very strongly and it turns out to be wrong, you can get seriously hurt.   Before you buy into the wild theories about how the earth came into existance, remember that you will also be fully committed to your belief sooner or later.  You don’t want to find out at the moment of truth (like I did) that everything you put your hopes on was a lie.  In the end you could find yourself hitting the hard ground of reality.

Branded

Sometimes I think it”s funny how we fall in love with name brand products.  Comparing say the name brand Contact for colds with the generic head cold medicine we find they are exactly the same.  Yet there are many who will only buy the name brand.  There is something to be said about reputations and the power of advertising.  The name brand always costs more because in reality the company has to pay more in advertising fees to make us believe their product is better.  It doesn’t seem to matter what the truth is in advertising.  It is about if the companies can get their products out there in the public eye in a good way.  Can they make the public believe that their product is better whether it is or not?  Public opinion controls if the product and the company will be successful.  Putting a brand out in the market that people like will lead to sales and more sales.  At the same time if a brand falls out of favor it invariably will die.

When watching recent presidential elections I am struck by one thing.  Instead of the candidates making statements of their strong points that would be of benefit for the position,  they seem to use all of their energies cutting down the other candidate.  It gets to be more of a scare tactic that they are selling to the general public.  If they can brand that candidate in the public mind as a person who would be a “scary” president they have succeeded.

Chuck Connors in Branded

Chuck Connors in Branded

I think it was when I was eight or nine years old that a popular western was playing every week called Branded.  Maybe if you are old enough you will remember the show too.  It starred Chuck Connors as Jason McCord, a civil war officer who was accused of being a coward and running away from a massacre at Bitter Creek, where he was the lone survivor.   In the opening each week we see McCord stripped of all of his stripes.  The General actually rips them right off of his uniform.  Then he rips the buttons off McCord’s  uniform one by one.  Finally he breaks Mccord’s sword over his knee and throws half of it out through the gate.  McCord is left with a torn up uniform to walk out of the gate in disgrace.  As he leaves the gate is shut behind him and he picks up the half of the sword and examines it.  It’s almost like he is examining broken dreams and his broken reputation at the same time.  The song that is played tells us that the charges were not true.  The episodes are about McCord being a wanderer and using his engineering and army skills in many situations to help the people he comes into contact with.  His reputation always seemed to precede him as someone always recognizes him as the coward.  However heads are usually turned as McCord demonstrates courage that suggests that he was branded wrong.

Another show with the same theme of someone being branded wrong was “The Fugitive”.  The show was about Dr. Richard Kimble who was wrongly convicted of killing his wife.  He escapes and is running from the law while at the same time trying to find the real killer.  Along the way he comes in contact with many people he is able to help.  He has to stay one step ahead of the law as they are on a nationwide manhunt.  In their eyes he is just an escaped killer.  The similarities of Branded and The Fugitive are that both of the men were innocent.  Yet in the public eye they were guilty.Fugitive

I think the thing that caught my eye and made me remember “Branded”  through the years was the beginning.  It was so stunning watching that man week after week getting stripped of all of his dignity.  Week after week I watched the same scene as his stripes were ripped off and his buttons torn off one by one.  To a young kid it was alarming and I really couldn’t comprehend why they were doing such an unjust thing to someone.

Now as I am much older I realize that we all are branded one way or the other.  Whether it is true or not everyone has some kind of opinion of us.  We may be branded as a good person or a bad person.  We may be branded for things that happened in our past. However we are branded with the public, the brand  may in reality be totally untrue.  When someone comes to Christ they are changed.  The Bible says in II Corinthians 5:17 “If any man is in Christ he is a new creature, old things are passed away, behold all things have become new.”  Maybe you were branded years ago as a different person than you are today.  Maybe Christ has changed you and the old brand doesn’t fit anymore.  By seeing some of the same people who branded you there may be a change of opinion and a different brand applied!   The very fact that your old brand doesn’t fit anymore is the reason you can become a vibrant testimony for the Lord! Think about the apostle Paul and how when his life was changed people were amazed!  “Isn’t this the same guy who was killing the Christians in times past?”, they wondered.  With such an amazing turnaround questions are asked and the source of such a change can be revealed! I have found that the most dynamic testimonies of God’s love and grace are from people who were changed the most!  People that were going rapidly in the wrong direction until a sudden turn around.  People who were branded one way but now are being re-branded by their new actions and testimonies!

The thought occurred to me while thinking about this branded theme that Jesus Christ was branded too.  He was branded as God Almighty, a prophet, or a trouble maker who was a threat to the government.  These were the three major brands people saw in Christ.  Because the people in power believed the third opinion,  Christ was stripped of all of his dignity just like Jason McCord was.  McCord was left to walk away a disgraced man while Christ was beaten and killed.  Christ died for the very same people who killed him.  In both cases a man was charged for something he was innocent of.  Yet even as he was dying Christ was forgiving. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”  As a kid I was shocked by the injustice of the opening segment of Branded every week.  As an adult I see a parallel of how Christ was stripped of his dignity because of the untrue brand that was given to him.  In the end the devil’s lie resulted in God’s compassion for all of us!

Click below to see the opening of Branded.  Because of it’s harshness it is in my mind all these years later!

The Seed Became A Rose

My dad told me a true story a few times during the years.  He told it to me more than once because it was a story that illustrated the point that things aren’t always how they appear.  Much like the saying “you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.”   There was this giant movie theater that was built in this town years ago.  It was the only one in town and it made money hand over fist.  A very common man dressed in plain attire, (very clean but very casual), asked the theater owner if he could sell some popcorn outside the theater.  He was granted his request more or less on the pity that the theater owner felt for him.  After all the theater owner was making so much money every day and here this guy looked to be struggling and needed a break.  His little popcorn stand was very plain, but he was there every day.  Nobody thought much of the popcorn stand owner.  They were just glad he was there so they could buy their ten cent popcorn.  One day a few years later the theater owner decided to sell his very profitable theater.  There was speculation from all over as to which of the towns wealthiest residents might be interested and if they could come up with the needed funds to make the purchase.  Nobody was shocked when the business was sold in very short order.  Everyone was floored when they found out that the buyer was the guy with the popcorn stand!

My impression of peoples success  has taken  a solid u-turn at times.  I used to help people with their finances.  It was pretty basic stuff.  Getting them to think about retirement even when they were younger.  Having them switch to term life insurance instead of paying expensive premiums. Investing in mutual funds instead of banks.  Anyway one of the things we used to do was find out what they owed and what their income was.  I was so stunned to see the other side of the equation.  People that I thought were doing so well because of their positions and their house were actually in financial ruins.  Even though their income might have been very substantial they were spending even more.  Even worse sometimes the commitment to make all of that money had taken it’s toll on their family.  We all invest our time in different ways and there has to be a balance to be successful.  Without that balance there are break downs as evident by some being on their second or third marriage.

So many times we look at someones position and we tend to categorize them.  We like to put people in categories.  I guess it is how we try to get things organized.  We relate this person to this job, and then to this level of talent and intelligence.  I always like the stories where someone isn’t thought as much, but down deep they have value nobody sees.  Unlike the story where someone is on a pedestal and we have to push them off, these are stories where the person starts at nowhere in our eyes and ends up on that pedestal!

Christopher Maloney is a 34 year old man who lives in Liverpool England.  He knew he had something that was very special.  Yet, his confidence was always shattered by his so called “friends.”  You see Christopher has a gift of singing.  At least he thought he might until bringing it up with friends.  Every time he mentioned that he would like to sing in public he was shot down.  “You would just make a bloody fool of yourself”, was the reply.  For years Christopher let his dream slide.  He had a grandma who encouraged him though.  “I am behind you 100% she told him.”  Maybe her encouragement is just what he needed!  Christopher was scared to death, but he decided to enter to become a contestant on a popular show called The X Factor.  It is a show where people get up and perform and judges score them.

Christopher decided to sing a song that seems to fit his story perfectly.  It was “The Rose” written by Amanda McBoom, and made famous by Bette Midler.  The lyrics that seem to describe Christopher before his appearance go like this.

It’s the heart, afraid of breaking, that never learns to dance.  It’s the dream, afraid of waking, that never takes a chance,  It’s the one who won’t be taken, who cannot seem to give, and the soul afraid of dying, that never learns to live.

Christopher wasn’t thought of as much when he walked on stage.  He was shaking so bad that it was unclear if he would even be able to perform.  Yet, when he got some composure and started singing heads perked up.  Instead of a man who the judges thought would be a total failure came a voice they couldn’t believe, with emotion I have very rarely heard in a song!  Christopher sang and lived the last lyrics of his song!  Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snow,  lies the seed that with the sun’s love,  in the spring becomes the rose.

Elvis Eats Here

Naturally our eyes are attracted to the colored picture and the headlines!  What headlines they are too bordering on the bizarre to the unexpected!  It’s the grocery checkout line and while we are waiting as someone in front of us has 100 items to run past the cashier there they are.  It may be the National Enquirer, Star Magazine, The Sun, Globe, or The Weekly World News.  The store knows we may be waiting for awhile.  The magazines and mini newspapers are placed right there at the checkout lane.  They make them so tempting to pick up.  The main story is on the front but usually we have to dig through the paper to find it.  Within that digging there is a lot of other stories that catch our eye.

I remember years ago one of the tabloid papers ran a story that John F. Kennedy was alive for quite some time after November 22, 1963.  The story even had a fuzzy picture of a person with a bandaged up head in a wheelchair.  Supposedly it was from some far away island .  I’m sure that there are some who believed the story.   It’s a story that is so bizarre that you want to read it even though you know it isn’t true.  Deep down you hope that some miracle happened and it is.  Life doesn’t seem fair sometimes and we root for the stories we would like to be true.

I remember watching a concert highlight of what it was like to be at an Elvis Presley Concert.  Elvis put on a fantastic show singing all of his hits and performing like the icon that he was.  When he sang his last tune he left the stage.  The audience was in an uproar.  “We want Elvis, We want Elvis” the cries went up.  After several minutes of this the announcer came on the P.A. system.  “ladies and gentlemen” he said over the crowd noise, “Elvis has left the building.”

When Elvis Presley died in 1977 the world was in shock.  Elvis was an icon as he was  the king of rock and roll.  Nobody wanted to believe that the unthinkable had happened to him.  Somehow they had to accept that their idol and someone who they almost considered family had been taken away.

I think it was during the 1980’s that a story came out in one of the tabloids.  The story stated that Elvis was alive.  He was seen in Kalamazoo Michigan at a Burger King.  He was reported to be seen at other places too, but Burger King seemed to fit.  Living in Kalamazoo I was seeing businesses running with the idea.  One of the local Burger Kings had on their sign “Elvis eats here”.  I think a local spa had a sign that read “Elvis works out here”.  Nobody mentioned that a couple of whoppers at Burger King probably wasn’t the recommended food for spa members.  There must have been an Elvis impersonator going around in our town as many people claimed they saw him at businesses throughout the city.  The publicity was great for Kalamazoo and seeing those signs brought smiles to our faces!

Elvis was such an icon that it didn’t seem fair that he was struck down at only 42.  A book came out about Elvis being alive that listed reasons why we should believe.  The story was that he faked his own death.  One of the supposed clues to this story was that his middle name was misspelled on his tombstone.  It doesn’t take much to give people hope.  There were millions of people who held out hope that these stories were true.  Years later a story came out that Elvis was dead at 58.  It seems like he lived his life from 42-58 quietly and gave people the impression that he did it to get out of the spotlight.  So for the Elvis fans (and there were million’s) there was hope that Elvis was happy in his years after fame.  That he lived a quiet life and enjoyed himself.  Isn’t it strange how we can be willing to believe a lie if we want it to be true?

Through the years I have seen hundreds of headlines in these tabloids at the checkout lines.  I’m sure that many border on telling the truth though a few untruths have to be mixed in to make it interesting.  Stories especially about movie stars or famous people are sure to get attention.  Stories about bizarre happenings turn heads too.  Anything concerning aliens, UFO’s, a person weighing 1,000 pounds or  one nine feet tall will be read because of curiosity.  I guess they create excitement and information that we need to explore.

Seeing how easy it can be to be deceived in the grocery line with only tabloid papers at work, how much easier will it be to be deceived when we hear things on the radio and TV?  How much more convincing will these stories be when all of the media have the same facts and figures?  How much truer will everything appear when a trip to the internet will give us all of the details?

One day the disciples asked him privately, “What will be the signs of your coming and the end of the age?”  Jesus answered, “Watch out that no one deceives you.  For many will come in my name, claiming, I am the Christ, and will deceive many.” Matthew 24:3-5.  In verses 23 and 24 of the same chapter Jesus said “At that time if anyone says to you, “Look, here is the Christ! or, There he is! do not believe it.  For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect-if that were possible.”

It’s easy to want to believe something especially if it seems good.  God gave all of us a free will.  We can choose what we believe.  Remember the game show “Let’s Make A Deal?”  I would try to play along and pick the curtain over the box.  Sometimes it worked out and there was a good prize there.  Other times even though the curtain had a lot of space for a fantastic prize it was a zonk.  That was a prize nobody wanted like 3 pigs.  On the other hand the box which was very small might have a sign that said $5,000.  I’d shake my head wondering how I could so easily have been deceived? It was like the deception in the grocery line.  Getting involved in a story and wishing it were true.  It was like reading a tabloid that Elvis was still here and not facing the reality that he has already left the building.

The Truth Stands

What is your name please?  My name is Lewis Hamilton, My name is Lewis Hamilton, My name is Lewis Hamilton.  I Lewis Hamilton the story starts and continues as it details some special thing that I did that got notoriety.  If you are wondering what I am talking about I must be showing my age.  The show was “To Tell The Truth” and it was a game show.  There were three contestants, two fakes and the real person.  The panel of 4 people would ask the different contestants questions related to the story.  After each panel member asked questions of each contestant as time permitted they were asked to vote on which was the real person.  Usually they would have a reason why they voted as they did.  Maybe contestant number one got confused with their story and contradicted what they had said earlier.  Maybe contestant number 2 didn’t listen closely to the facts of the story and gave a wrong answer.  In every case it was a matter of the fakes remembering what they said before and being consistent with their answers.  The real person just had to answer the questions truthfully as they actually experienced the event.   Sometimes the contestants were really good in their stories and their answers fooled the panel.  In that case they won some money for every panel member they fooled.  They earned all of the money they received because it was much harder to be fake than to be real.

We all have heard the strategy in a court of law that the accused doesn’t have to testify and the fact that if they didn’t testify it shouldn’t influence your decision.  The thought that they want us to believe is that some high powered lawyer will twist the words and make the inexperienced, naive witness look bad.  In my opinion it is a sales job to convince the jurors and the public that if the accused doesn’t take the stand it doesn’t mean anything.  The jurors are always told this fact of law.  Yet as a juror how can you ignore the fact that the accused doesn’t take the stand? Why would anyone just sit there and let all of the damaging testimony of other witnesses become fact in the jurors eyes without stepping up and defending their reputation? The only logical explanation is that they are hiding something.

The O.J. Simpson case has been called “The Trial of the Century”, and for good reason.  If you were alive at that time and of an understanding age you had an opinion.  You were bombarded with the trial on TV and you saw the trial being played out on the screen daily.  If I were O.J. and I was accused of this unthinkable deed and I was innocent they couldn’t keep me off of the witness stand.  Wouldn’t I be afraid of some word twisting professional lawyer making me look bad?  My answer to that question is “Not at all!”  The reason I can be so confident is because I would know and tell the truth!  There isn’t a question the lawyer could ask that would make me look bad as long as I stuck to the truth.  In fact as testimony unfolded the jury would see that I was telling the truth.  That is because the truth is consistent.  If you are trying to cover something up and have to mix a lie or two in, the lies turn into three or four, five or six.  That is because you have to tell a lie to cover the other lie.  That is where a crafty lawyer can make you look bad.  However, if you have nothing to hide, then there is nothing anyone can uncover.  The more they try the more they will look bad as your truth will uncover the twist of their questions and their motives.  So the next time you see someone accused of something and they refuse to take the stand ask yourself why?

You have probably heard the saying “The Truth Hurts.”  Sometimes the truth does hurt if it isn’t what we really want to hear.  Because it is the truth it will shine a light on things we need to improve on.  Using the truth as a starting point we can see where we are.  There is no need to pretend things are different if we face the truth.  The only way to improve is to embrace the truth as it is now and improve to a different truth down the road!  It is far better to hear the truth and deal with it than to believe the lie.

The Bible speaks about truth and lies numerous times.  Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except by me.  John 14:6  Jesus talking about Satan in John 8:44 said “when he lies, he is speaking his native language, for he is a liar and the Father of lies.” John 8:32 states that “then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” So when you are being questioned, whether it is on a witness stand or in any other situation, answer truthfully. Remember, sooner or later the truth will be known. You don’t want to be a person found out to be fraudulent! By being truthful you will avoid many problems down the road even if the truth puts you in an unfavorable light at the time. At least if it is out there we can be free to deal with the situation. The freedom of the truth works so much better and easier than trying to remember the made up story and all of the made up details.

I’m reminded of when “To Tell the Truth” revealed the real person. The host would say “Will the real John Smith (or whoever) please stand up. Usually one would start to get up, then another and maybe they would fake a couple of more times. It was like a smoke screen for that moment, but only for that moment. Finally what always happened, was the real person stood up and the truth was revealed.

 

 

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