It was one of those once-in-a-life-time moments. The entire World celebrated Christmas Eve, 1968, by sitting glued to television sets. Apollo 8 was in Moon orbit, broadcasting first-ever, live television shots of the Moon's surface. Man had yet to set foot on the Moon, so this Moon orbit was truly an historic moment.
On board the spacecraft, three American astronauts, Frank Borman, James Lovell Jr. and William Anders, gave a Christmas greeting to earthbound viewers, and spoke briefly of their mission. The onboard camera was then focused on the view outside the cabin window.
There it was, the surface of the Moon, close-up like you had never seen it before. Then one of the astronauts, Frank Borman, did a most amazing thing. . .
As spellbound viewers watched the surface of the moon moving slowly across their TV screens, Frank Borman began reading from the Book of Genesis, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. . . "
As Borman read, goose bumps crawled up and down my spine. It may seem humdrum today, but back in 1968 this broadcast triggered a stillness around the world like no one had felt before. It was a moment many will never forget.
While at work a few days later, I overheard a news broadcast reporting Madalyn Murray O'Hare, the infamous atheist, had filed a complaint with NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), complaining of the televised reading of scripture. The report went on to say she intended to put a stop to reading of scripture in space over government radios.
This was the same woman who single-handedly managed to get prayer banned in public schools. Now here she was again, rearing her ugly will upon the people. I was incensed. But even before that newscast was over, I remember saying aloud, “Over my dead body. "
Then and there I did something that would effect the outcome of my entire life. I made a decision to begin a petition drive in opposition to O’Hare. I quickly typed out a simple statement endorsing the astronauts’ actions and brought it around to my co-workers to sign.
My plan was to make 5 copies of the petition and send one each to NASA, the town library where I lived, both Houses of Congress, and the President of the United States.
With about 100 signatures in hand, I went around my neighborhood after work and collected about 50 more. I was excited and was on a mission. But I needed more signatures. That's when my father-in-law suggested I go to the night editor of the local newspaper for help. He told me they are always looking for human-interest stories. Maybe they would print mine.
So after supper that night I went to the paper. I remember the man I first spoke to yelling back to another gentleman saying, “Hey, Charlie, here's our answer to Madalyn O’Hare!"
The next day went by as usual. . . until I got home after work. When I walked into the kitchen, there my wife and mother- in-law were, sitting at the kitchen table with papers scattered around. My mother-in-law, who was on the phone, looked up and gave me one of her “you've really done it this time" looks. Then she said, “Here, take it. This phone has done nothing but ring all day. "
And that is how my petition drive got airborne. Without my knowing it, my story was picked up by newswire services and went worldwide.
The phone never quit ringing. Have you ever had the phone to ring in the same moment you disconnected the call? Well that is how it was for eight solid hours. It never quit. We had to disconnect the phone from the wall to keep it from ringing throughout the night while asleep.
I received calls from all around the world, literally. People far and wide wanted copies of my petition. They wanted to help gather signatures.
My family and I were in shock at the massive response that was pouring in. It was only the beginning.
Within a week, the mailman was delivering five and six large duffel bags of mail a day to our doorstep. It was overwhelming, and I didn't know what to do or how to proceed. Mailbags were piling up by the dozens. I remember we all prayed because this had become more than my family or I could handle.
Then one day after work, NASA called me. A kindly gentleman said he represented a group of employees at NASA calling themselves the Apollo Prayer Group. They met regularly within NASA to pray for the success of each mission. They had heard of my petition and wanted to know if they could be of any help.
The NASA prayer group offered to take up the cause of my petition, make 5 microfilm copies of each page and see to it that all five copies were sent to where I wanted them to go. Their call was most welcome and verified for me that this was the answer to our prayer.
In the end, some five million signatures were gathered, copies made and sent per my request. Madalyn Murray O’Hare dropped her law suit, and Congress passed a law that guarantees the right of reading the Bible aloud in space over NASA radio frequencies.
Two years later I learned I had been invited to NASA to attend a banquet in my honor. Not only would the Apollo 8 astronauts be in attendance, Senator Everet Dirkson of Illinois was to speak and honor me for my actions. Unfortunately, my job had moved me three times, and I never learned of the NASA banquet until after the fact.
From this one event in my life I learned several life-changing lessons.
1. We are born to greatness:
At the time I was in my middle 20's and naive. I didn't know any better to think I could fail. Failure wasn't an option. I simply saw myself defeating this ugly spirited person and did!
Now I know why I could defeat her. We are created in God's image. Translated into street language, that means we are born to do great things.
Looking back, that whole event has shaped every decision I have made since. There is a boldness within me to this day that allows me to make decisions and act in ways that many people simply will not.
In walking around my neighborhood to obtain petition signatures, I met a woman who was afraid to sign my petition. She told me she feared communists taking over our country one day. “When they do, " She said, “they will use lists like the one I have to persecute people. "
What a shame it must be to live like this person. . .being motivated by intimidation and fear.
You see, our ability to achieve success, though God given, is tempered day by day through our experiences and thoughts. We can change our ability to become achievers by changing our perception of ourselves.
Once you begin to see yourself as God created you, there is nothing that can hold you back. Jesus would say, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain. ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you"
2. Timing is everything to move the masses:
When I listened to that radio newscast about Madalyn O’Hare, I didn't know about timing. All I felt was anger and determination to stop her cold. But then so did many other people. It was the right time. All that was needed was someone to ignite the spark of resistance. I provided a way for them to speak out, to have a part in history.
3. People are motivated by causes:
I was uninvolved and minding my own business back in 1968. It wasn't until my anger was stirred and brought to cause that I became involved. And so it was for five million others who signed that petition.
4. There will always be others willing to help:
Just when I thought I was overwhelmed with petition requests, NASA called me to offer help. I didn't need to be asked twice.
5. The Power of One is the seed to produce a great harvest:
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would collect five million signatures in a petition drive, but it happened.
I like to use the example of a corn seed (I live in corn country). When I consider how many bushels can be harvested from the kernels of just one ear of corn, it amazes me.
So this is what I have learned from that one experience back in 1968. Take a child of God (greatness), give them an opportunity (timing and cause) and you have the ingredients to do the impossible. . . to change our world.
You have the power of one. In you lies the seed of greatness. God has granted this to you by right of birth. Let me encourage you to claim this birthright. To His Glory.
Jim Lynn is the author of “Real World Secrets Behind America's Most Successful (And Profitable) People Who Network. ”