Are You Watching Television or is Television Watching You?

This past year has been so crazy! And the TV news channels I think have only added to the confusion and division.

Depending on whether you watch CNN or FOX News you usually get a different take on the same story. One evening I just flipped back and forth between the two and I could not believe as I listened to their coverage that they were talking about the same event.

Reporting both sides of an issue and then letting the listener decide what to believe seems to be a thing of the past.

Reflecting on this I recently was given a book to read called “How to Watch TV News.” Written by Neil Postman and Steve Powers several years ago (published in 1992) it was amazing how much the book speaks to our situation in 2021.

The authors share that America is suffering from an information glut. They ask a good question: “Are you watching television or is television watching you?” They point out that the news channel make their money by selling time for commercials. Their purpose is to make money – not report news. Accordingly, they spend a fortune determining what the public likes and does not like.

The book asks a great question: What is news? What makes an event worthy of prime time coverage? Recently Tiger Woods was in a automobile accident. For several days the accident was discussed at great length. What was the cause? How long would he be in the hospital? Would he be able to play golf again? Over and over pictures of his vehicle were shown.

Now I’m not saying that it was not a terrible thing that he was injured. But how many other people were in accidents that day? How many other lives were changed or made more difficult? What made Tiger Woods’ accidents “news?”

The journalist reporting the news will naturally view what is important and what is not important through their own viewpoint. Also, what they can and must report will be determined most of the time, not by them, but by the executives running the network. They will want to report the things they believe their audience wants to hear so that they will keep watching and the network can keep making profits from the revenue received from commercials.

According to Kelly Main of Fit Small Business:

  • The average TV ad costs $115,000 for a 30-second commercial on a national network.
  • TV advertising spending in North America amounted to 62.9 billion in 2020.
  • AMC’s “The Walking Dead” averaged $400,00 per 30 second spot.

Ask yourself: Why is the news mainly about “bad” things? Murders, fires, rapes, riots, unemployment figures, arguments in Congress. Why are there few news stories about the latest novel that has been written, a new symphony recently composed, research being done to cure cancer or other diseases?

The authors of this book suggest one reason is these events make poor television news because there is little to show about them. People watch television. They want to see active, exciting, intriguing pictures.

News executives have found people say they want the latest news presented by people “I can trust and respect.” Accordingly, they spend a lot of money to make their news anchors come across as good-looking, likable people. They work to build up the reputations of their anchors, spend money on makeup and clothing to give them a pleasing appearance. (When was the last time you saw a news anchor who was overweight, and not good-looking?)

My friends on the right side of the political debate love to watch Tucker Carlson. They believe he has the interests of the working class, patriotic Americans. However, he makes $6 million dollars a year from Fox and is believed to be worth $30 million. Of course, if he can share news from a viewpoint that the right wants to hear, he is assured to keep raking in his big salary. How can he impartially share news when his comfortable lifestyle depends on keeping his ratings up?

My friends on the left side of the political debate love to watch Don Lemon. They believe he speaks for the poor and the minorities in our country. However, he makes $4 million a year from CNN and is believed to be worth $12 million. So he too is going to share news that the left want to hear. How can he be impartial when that big salary is at stake?

The authors end by making some suggestions on what you can do when watching television news. One I loved was:

Reduce by at least one-third the amount of TV news you watch….if you are concerned that cutting down your viewing time will cause you to “miss” important news, keep this in mind: each day’s TV news consists, for the most part, of fifteen or so examples of one or the other of the Seven Deadly Sins, with which you are already quie familiar. There may be a couple of stories exemplifying lust, usually four about murder, occasionally one about gluttony, another about envy, and so on. It cannot possibly do you any harm to excuse yourself each week from acquaintance with thirty or forty of these examples. Remember: TV news does not reflect normal, everyday life.

The second one I loved was:

Reduce by one-third the number of opinions you feel obligated to have….Wouldn’t it be liberating to say…..”I have no opinion on this since I know practically nothing about it?”

I have no idea if this book is still in print, but if you can find it, I would highly recommend it. It is so fitting for today’s world.

For Me to Live is Christ

START WHERE YOU ARE
USE WHAT YOU HAVE
DO ALL YOU CAN

Thoughts of a Retired Pastor

Philippians 1:12-26

But I want you to know, brethren, that the thingswhich happenedto me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel,so that it has become evidentto the wholepalace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ;and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill:The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains;but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel.What then? Onlythatin every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice. For I know thatthis will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of…

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My Commitment

Today I am 73 years young. As I reflect back on the years, I am thankful for the important decision I made at 6 years old.  My love for the Lord is even stronger today than it was then.  If I could talk to that six-year-old girl, I would say “Thank you for the decision you made.  It has done me good!.”

“Oh God, You have taught me from my earliest childhood, and I constantly tell others about the wonderful things You do.  Now that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God.  Let me proclaim Your power to this new generation, Your mighty miracles to all who come after me. ”   Psalm 71

Grandma's Ramblings

I was just six years old.  Too young many would say to know what I was really doing.  But I knew.

Growing up in a family that attended church every Sunday and where my parents practiced what they preached on Monday through Saturday also, I understood that Jesus loved everyone – even “sinners.”

jesus love me

I wasn’t totally sure what all being a sinner included, but I knew I was not one.

Until one evening at church, I recognized I was.

I was coloring during the sermon on a Sunday night when I heard the speaker say

We put sins into a “big” and a “small” category.  But sin is sin regardless of how big or how small it seems.

He then mentioned what we call “small” sin – like lying or disobeying our parents.  Now he had my attention.  Just that week I had disobeyed my mother – and then lied…

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Worship – Our Way vs God’s Way — Thoughts of a Retired Pastor

I like this view of worship in church – taken from one of my husband’s sermons.

Worship our way: Conductor: God Performers: Worship Leaders Audience: Congregation Worship God’s Way: Conductor: Worship Leaders Performers: Congregation Audience: God

Worship – Our Way vs God’s Way — Thoughts of a Retired Pastor

Hosanna – Save Me!

They were praising Jesus – but why? Because they saw Him coming to save them from the Roman occupation, to rescue them from a life of servitude to Rome. Their praises were for a conquering hero, not a dying savior.

He turned out to not be what they expected – not what they wanted!
I do not know if the crowd on Palm Sunday was the same as the crowd on Good Friday, but I can understand how they could have been the same. They could praise Him when they thought He would meet their needs in the way they wanted. But praise could easily turn to scorn when they saw their needs would not be met in the way they wanted.

Grandma's Ramblings

Hosanna in the Highest!

Growing up in a typical Protestant home, I heard over and over how the crowds cried out in praise as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey on Palm Sunday. Often we would wave palm branches while singing, “Hosanna!” This was all based on the familiar verses in the Gospels.

And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosannato the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.

Formany years I have sang songs of praise crying “Hosanna” thinking I was just singing a praise to God.

What a fickle bunch!

Before the week was out, the crowd was crying “Crucify him!”

Many sermons have been preached on how changeable, how unreliable the crowd in Jerusalem was. Many have questioned how they could praise Him one day and cry out for His death…

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RIP

My 73rd birthday is just days away. This post of a few years ago reminds me again of God’s blessings to me and although my body is hollering “you are old” my spirit says “no – I’ve still a lot of living to do.”

Grandma's Ramblings

thRestin Peace

This past weekend my husband and I visited a local cemetery. I felt a little strange as we drove in the main entrance because we were going to inspect our own tombstones.

While we are not ready to “kick the bucket” yet, we are at an age where we realize that we are not going to live forever. Wanting to make sureour kids are not stuck with decisions and expenses on our demise, we purchased the tombstones this summer. Friday we received notice from the monument company that they had set the tombstones in place so we went to take a look.

Looking at the inscriptions that gave our names and date of birth witha place for the future date of our death led to a little “soul-searching” and reflection on my life.

Looking Back

As I reflected on the past 66 years of my life, I…

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Do You Know These Women – Part VI

Raised on a plantation in the South, these two sisters became strong advocates to abolish slavery. The oldest, Sarah Grimke, accompanied her wealthy father to Philadelphia to seek medical treatment. While there, she met members of the Society of Friends. Returning to Charleston, she eventually became a Quaker and moved to Philadelphia where she became actively involved in the drive to end slavery.

Sarah Grimke (1792-1873) date of image is unknown.
Library of Congress

Her young sister, Angelina Grimke, soon joined her sister in the north and also become active in the cause of freedom for the slaves.

Angelina Grimke Weld (1805-1879) date of image is unknown
.Library of Congress

This move, or course, made them outcasts with their family and former friends. Angelina only added to the South’s outrage when she wrote an Appeal to the Christian Women of the South. In that writing she wrote

I know you do not make the laws, but I also know that you are the wives and mothers, the sisters and daughters of those who do; and if you really suppose you can do nothing to overthrow slavery, you are greatly mistaken.”

While this brought the anger of the Southern population, it also made northern men unhappy. Many of them felt that a woman did not have the right to speak out about issues that were so controversial and political.

The opposition to her expressing her views not only did not stop her from speaking out about slavery, it also caused her and her sister to become outspoken agents for women’s rights.

Joining the American Anti-Slavery Society, the sisters began to speak to small groups of women in private homes and as their popularity grew, they soon moved to making appearances before much larger audiences, often ones that included men. Both sisters wrote on women’s right to equality in society. Angelina published Appeal to the Women of the Nominally Free States and Sarah followed up with Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Women.

Angelina married an abolitionist, Theodore Weld. Since he was not a Quaker the sisters were kicked out of the Society of Friends. The three of them moved to New Jersey and started a boarding school teaching students. When the Civil War broke out, they wrote to President Lincoln giving their support for the freedom of the slaves.

They discovered that their brother Henry had two sons by an enslaved women. They reached out and began a close relationship with the young men and supported their education. One of the men, Archie, studied law at Harvard and the other, Francis, went to Princeton Theological Seminary. Both men became leaders in the black community.

Frances was pastor of the 15th Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. This church was founed in 1841 as the First Colored Presbyterian Church. Rev. Grimke served as the third pastor for more than 50 years beginning in 1877. From his pulpit he called for civil rights, fought against racism in American churches, helped found the American Negro Academy in 1897 and was part of the group working to create the NAACP.

Archibald (Archie) Grimké had a distinguished career as a lawyer. He also created the first African-American newspaper, the Hub. He attended the first conference of the NAACP and worked with that organization the rest of his life.

Both women fought for women’s rights and for equal and fair treatment of the blacks after the Civil War. .They were active in the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association leading a protest of women on March 7, 1870 when they illegally voted in an election.

As I read about these women, I was challenged by their willingness to leave a life where they were pampered and waited on to speak out and fight for the rights of blacks. To not be afraid of those who tried to silence them as being less than equal of men. It is sad to me that many who have benefited from their fight do not even know their names.

In 1998 they were both posthumously inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Being a Christian in a non-Christian World

Growing up in church I often heard a quote from the gospel of Luke that tells us Jesus said “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. Often this would be followed by an admonition that as Christians we would have crosses we must bear for Christ.

I wondered what my cross must be. Life seemed pretty good to me. Oh yes there were some heartaches and difficulties, but a cross? When I read about the death of Jesus and the sufferings of the Early Church, then looked at the American church, I found it hard to see that we were bearing crosses as they did.

We often had bible classes on bearing our cross for Christ. No doubt we have had difficult times that seem like crosses – death, accidents, sickness. But these are things that come to everyone – Christian and non-Christian and as far as I can see have little to do with suffering connected with sharing Christ. It is true that when we face these difficult times we can be a witness for Christ when we show faith and strength in the middle of these difficult times. It can be a chance to tell others of why we have hope and even joy in the midst of bad times. But I am not sure we can call these things crosses in the sense Jesus meant when He told us to take up our cross and follow Him.

Looking at the suffering Christians face in North Korea, China, Indonesia and many countries in Africa, I realize that cross-bearing is not a discipleship topic for them. They do not have the luxury of sitting in an air-conditioned classroom while viewing PDF slides on “How to Bear Your Cross.” Many of them could avoid suffering if they would simply stop talking about Jesus and/or agree to renounce their Christian faith. They face what Jesus called for – taking up a cross of suffering and danger daily.

Still, as our culture seems to becoming more anti-Christian, I realize the day is fast coming when we may begin to face real persecution. I mean beyond just being called a name or made fun of. I mean real persecution like losing your job, not being allowed to go to school or church or even having your life in danger. When I think about the possibility of the American church being called to “really” bear a cross, I wonder if we would be up to it.

According to World Watch List this past year:

  • Over 340 million Christians are living in places where they experience high levels of persecution and discrimination
  • 4,761 Christians were killed for their faith
  • 4,488 churches and other Christian buildings were attacked
  • 4,277 believers were detained without trial, arrested, sentenced or imprisoned

Open Doors tells us that

Looking in from the outside, we often want to pray for the trials of the persecuted church to cease. We hear about the decisions parents are forced to make to protect their children, or the prison sentences so many serve because of their beliefs. It’s only normal and seemingly right that we would want to pray for the persecution to end. Yet the reality is that believers in the persecuted church around the world often don’t wish or pray for their trials to end. The No. 1 request Open Doors receives from persecuted believers is prayer, but they don’t ask us to pray they will be removed from persecution. Time and again, persecuted believers tell us that persecution builds the church and their witness. In the midst of persecution, they still live out their calling to glorify God. Instead, persecuted believers ask us to pray with them that they will stand strong and witness with faithfulness.  This “ask” is straight from Scripture. This “ask” is straight from Scripture. Throughout the Bible, we see God’s people and His Church persecuted, but Scripture never tells us to pray for persecution to stop or end. We’re even told that persecution will often accompany us on our journey as believers, with John 16:33 assuring us that “in this world, we will have trouble.” While Scripture tells us that God lavishly blesses and provides for His people, our idea of blessing differs from God’s perspective (the perspective of the first-century persecuted church leaders). Rather, in His Word God shows us that being blessed and having joy come not through our Western mindset of wealth, success, fame or even leisure–but rather through His presence and eternal salvation. In Scripture, we see how persecution is transformative: We are called to find joy in our trials, knowing what God is able to bring about through it: “We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Rom. 5:3-4). Knowing that whatever we face for God and His glory on this earth doesn’t compare to the eternal joy He has in store for us, which helps us persevere: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor. 4:17). As we are called to become more and more like Christ, facing trials for His Name helps to sanctify us: “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21).

My prayer for the American church is that we will grow strong in His word and be found faithful as our culture moves to a non-Christian world.

Do You Know These Women – Part V

Dr. Randy Lovelace did the physical testing for NASA to help with the selection of the Mercury astronauts. His vision went much beyond just getting a man into orbit around the earth. He thought someday we would have space stations orbiting the earth where science research could be done. If that should happen, women would need to be included as secretaries, laboratory assistants, nurses. That led him to wonder if women were physically fit to handle the pressures that spaceflight demanded.

Accordingly, he set up a privately funded project in Albuquerque, New Mexico and invited 25 different women pilots to participate. They would take the same tests that the Mercury astronauts had taken.

Privately funded in large part by the first woman to break the sound barrier, Jacqueline Cochran, records of more than 700 female pilots were reviewed before the 25 were invited to come to New Mexico and participate in these tests.

Given the same physical and psychological exams that the Mercury 7 men had taken, 12 women passed Phase 1 tests. These tests were strenuous and included having ice water shot into their ears which froze their inner ear. This allowed doctors to determine how quickly they recovered from vertigo. They were subjected to electric shock to their forearms to test their reflexes.

Phase II tests included seeing if they could withstand hours of isolation in a sensory deprivation tank and other experiments to determine women’s physiology and mental strength.

Army pulmonologist, Kathy Ryan, has taken a look at the test results of these women and compared them with the Mercury astronaut candidates. She determined that women on average did better than the men especially in the isolation tests and sensory-deprivation tests. Studies in Britain, Canada and the USA have all confirmed that these women did as well as the men.

So why did nothing come of these women’s attempts to be part of the space program? The American culture was just not ready for women to take an equal role with men. One of the women, Jerrie Cobb, spoke before Congress and also visited with then Vice President Lyndon Johnson.

Another strong advocate was Janie Hart who testimony before Congress included the statement:

‘I strongly believe women should have a role in space research – in fact, it’s inconceivable to me that the world of outer space should be restricted to men only, like some sort of stag club.

‘One hundred years ago, it was quite inconceivable that women should serve as hospital attendants; their essentially frail and emotional structure would never stand the horrors of a military dressing station. Finally, it was agreed to allow some women to try it – provided they were middle-aged and ugly (ugly women presumably having more strength of character.) I submit, Mr Chairman, that a woman in space today is no more preposterous than a woman in a field hospital 100 years ago.’

The hero of the first space program, John Glenn, said “The fact that women are not in this field is a fact of our social order. It may be undesirable.”

The 13 women who passed the initial physical tests were:

Jerrie Cobb (now deceased)
Wally Funk
Irene Leverton (now deceased)
Myrtle “K” Cagle (now deceased)
Jane B. Hart (now deceased)
Gene Nora Stumbough [Jessen]
Jerri Sloan [Truhill] (now deceased)
Rhea Hurrle [Woltman] (now deceased)
Sarah Gorelick [Ratley] (now deceased)
Bernice “B” Trimble Steadman (now deceased)
Jan Dietrich (now deceased)
Marion Dietrich (now deceased)
Jean Hixson (now deceased)

Regardless of these women’s fight for inclusion in the space program NASA did not select any female astronaut candidates until 1978. Although both Cobb and Cochran made separate appeals for years afterward to restart a women’s astronaut testing project, the U.S. civil space agency did not select any female astronaut candidates until the 1978 class of Space Shuttle astronauts. In 1983 Sally Ride became the first American woman in space in 1983 and in 1995 Eileen Collins was the first woman to pilot the Space Shuttle. She also was the first woman to command a Space Shuttle mission in 1999.

Eileen Collins invited the women who once aspired to fly into space to join her as she piloted the Space Shuttle.

Members of the First Lady Astronaut Trainees (FLATs, also known as the “Mercury 13”), these seven women who once aspired to fly into space stand outside Launch Pad 39B near the Space Shuttle Discovery in this photograph from 1995. The so-called Mercury 13 was a group of women who trained to become astronauts for America’s first human spaceflight program in the early 1960s. Although FLATs was never an official NASA program, the commitment of these women paved the way for others who followed. Visiting the space center as invited guests of STS-63 Pilot Eileen Collins, the first female shuttle pilot and later the first female shuttle commander, are (from left): Gene Nora Jessen, Wally Funk, Jerrie Cobb, Jerri Truhill, Sarah Rutley, Myrtle Cagle and Bernice Steadman. Photo courtesy of NASA.

March and Its Bitter-Sweet Memories and Emotions

This time of the year I find myself remembering events from years ago that generate both sweet and bitter memories with all the accompanying emotions.

March has been a month that has brought both good and bad events into my life – events that changed me forever.

The first one that brings sweet memories occurred 52 years ago on March 29. That day I walked down the aisle at church and promised to “love and cherish until death do us part.”

For almost 13 years I kept that promise. Every year as that date approaches I remember those years with my first husband. We were happy and shared a lot of joy but the best part of those years was the birth of our two beautiful daughters. Memories of those times make me smile and I am grateful for every moment we shared. Those events changed me – made me a wife, a mother.

The second memory is more painful. It was 39 years ago in March that I got a call at work that I will never forget. My eleven-year-old daughter called me and said, “Momma, I think Daddy is dead.” Those words changed our lives forever. My first husband had been working on our car when an accident occurred that took his life. Ironically it was just four days before we would have celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary. So March brings also feelings of great sadness as I remember the shock and horror of that day. The pain my daughters still feel today. The older one grieves as she remembers all the times she had with her daddy, while the younger grieves because she was so young her memories are few. That changed me – made me a young widow with two little girls to raise.

So – every year in March I deal with these memories and these conflicting emotions.

That would be enough to make the last of March an emotional time for me.

But last year added another event that adds to my emotions this time of year.

On March 19 last year my second husband fell and hit his head on the concrete floor of his art studio in the basement of our condo.

By the 22nd he was in pain and we went to the emergency room of our local hospital. From there he was rushed by ambulance to the main hospital in Lansing – the capital of our state – where they did emergency surgery. He had a major brain bleed and they said without the surgery he would not survive the night.

As I remember the next couple of weeks I still can feel the knot in my stomach as I waited at home (because of the virus I could not be with him) wondering if the next call would be to tell me I was a widow again. I wondered how I could take it if he died on the same day as my first husband had died. As the next few days were “touch and go” while they tried to get him off the ventilator, I kept telling God “please, not again, not this time.”

I am so grateful to God that he not only survived the surgery but after a few weeks he was back to his normal self. The doctor said he might have trouble walking, swallowing, communicating. While he had some of these symptoms for a couple of weeks, he was soon completely okay with no lingering symptoms.

One major concern of mine was would he be able to paint again. Would he even be able to walk down the stairs to his art studio. That prayer was again quickly answered. Our son-in-love brought his painting equipment upstairs and within two weeks he painted a beautiful lighthouse scene. Soon he was able to return to his studio downstairs and continue painting.

So along with the knot in my stomach, I also must rejoice with a great emotion of gratitude that I am not a widow for the second time, that my husband is not only alive, but well and strong again.

One of his first paintings also was of a beautiful rainbow which symbolizes hope and a reminder that God keeps His promises. He called it “Hope in the Storm.” It now hangs in my kitchen as a reminder to me that no matter what troubles come, with God there is always hope.

When my first husband died, when my second husband survived, regardless God has been there – and He brings me hope. Hope for whatever next March or any time may bring. Good times or bad – He is faithful.