Who would expect a hip, groovy, 60s-kind-of-guy working at a salt
factory to touch hearts? Who could have guessed that this guy who
didn't read would offer back to the reading world its lost literature?
No one, perhaps, except God.
Meet Mark Hamby, president of Cornerstone Family Ministries and
Lamplighter Publishing. Hamby and wife, Debbie, live in Pennsylvania,
with their two sons, Jonathan and David, and their daughter, Jennifer.
Now-a-days, Mark is a featured conference speaker as well as a family
counselor, urging parents to reach the hearts of their children.
Wiry and bright, Mark made his way through high school and even
college with little reading. It's not that he couldn't. He just
wouldn't. Yet, one starry night, July 22, 1977, everything changed.
The salt factory worker was on duty that night when a radio commentator
prayed, and Hamby knelt on the factory rooftop to change ownership
of his life.
Suddenly, he began to read the Bible - cover to cover - with gusto
and, can you believe?, do what it said. Placing gospel tracts
under beer glasses quickly cost him the part-time bartending job,
but Mark kept growing in his new relationship with Jesus. Within
two years, his church voted him "Pastor of Christian Education,"
and the senior pastor sent him to Bible college for a master's degree.
Mark likened the experience to a military boot camp where, on the
last day, he was made to sit and listen to guest speaker, Charlie
"Tremendous" Jones. Fifteen minutes into Jones' presentation,
Charlie roamed the crowd looking for someone. On the last
aisle Charlie found Mark, grabbed the quivering student, and lifted
him out of his seat.
"Young man, what great Christian literature have you been
reading in your life these days?," Jones asked.
Christian literature?, Mark asked himself. What's that? The only
thing that came to mind at that moment was a book his mother read
to him: Go, Dog Go! (And, no, that didn't count!)
Jones wasn't through. Vocal decibels increasing, Jones declared,
"You will be the same five years from now as you are today,
except for the books you read and the people you meet!" Mark
nodded. Jones started shaking him by the shoulders. "I know
you've read something! What book did you read last year, last month,
last week? What biography are you reading now to conform your life
into the image of Christ?"
Mark was shaken, in more ways than one. The audience, including
his wife, laughed itself into tears.
Three days later, Mark received a special package. He thought it
might be a bomb; it was, of sorts. It contained 12 biographies,
including D.L. Moody, Greatest Evangelist of the 19th Century.
Three hours later, Mark Hamby had read his very first book. He was
speechless, but had finally discovered the heroes whose lives challenged
him to soar. Mark determined to be like them, no matter the cost.
Soon after this - uh - experience with Charlie Jones, Hamby
realized that children need captivating literature that is character-building
and, most importantly, Christ-honoring. He wanted to provide the
life-transforming literature that he had missed as a child. God
honored Mark's desire and, in the mid-1990s, birthed Cornerstone
Family Ministries and Lamplighter Publishing, responsible for republishing
more than fifty literary works known as the Lamplighter Rare
Collector's Series. Many of these books have been out of print
more than 100 years; some, more than 300. Screened oh-so-carefully
and nicely hardbound to stay that way, it is no exaggeration to
say these books are treasures. From the brave and loyal Teddy to
the sacrificially kind Agnes, children will ask, "One more
chapter, pleeeeeeeeease!" Mine do.
Besides keeping them at the edge of their seats with rickety rafts
and courageous knights, these books teach children important lessons
about honesty and how the truth sets us free, about love and giving
oneself for the bettering of our neighbor, and other such lessons
you'll want your children to glean from your home. Virtues like
courage and perseverance and forgiveness seep through the pages
and waft from long ago days into our own.
If you prefer books that show disobedient, disrespectful children
as heroes, and stories that provoke your children to mimic the bad
behavior of the character, you will not want these books. Unlike
the modern "sensual, sensational and shallow" books, these
have the opposite affect. These books point you and your children
straight to Jesus Christ. Characters don't whine or quit or blame
parents and come out on top. You witness characters striving to
become like Jesus. You'll see that, no matter what evil does, God
is good and He means everything to work out to good. You'll see
Him in control, weaving His plan for the character through the story.
On a day when "bad" seems to crash down upon us, we can
say, "Stick to the Raft" and know we need to hold onto
Jesus and each other. When someone is unkind to us, we can remind
each other of Teddy in Teddy's Button, and know the power
of forgiveness and restoration.
From the Lamplighter web site:
"Story-time has been replaced with television and electronic
games, which rob children of cultivating their own imaginations.
Children no longer dream as George Washington, Patrick Henry,
Daniel Webster, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington Carver, Gladys
Aylward, and Amy Carmichael once did. Those dreams brought forth
actions, and those actions changed our world. It is time that
we reverse the negative influence upon our children so that they
might once again dream - of valor not violence, of love not lust,
of loyalty not lying, of sacrifice and not selfishness. We believe
that we are seeing this trend reversed in a small way through
the Lamplighter Rare Collector's Series."
My suggestion is for you to start at the top of the catalog and
work your way through it on special gift-giving occasions. Give
a copy to grandparents. You'll likely want the entire collection.
Books for girls, for boys, for parents, for teens, for older and
younger children - Lamplighter offers treasures.
Besides finding wonderful new gems to publish in the Rare Collection,
the Hamby family also is busy throughout the US and Canada conducting
Cornerstone seminars to fulfill Mark's God-given mission: To
make ready a people prepared for the Lord. (Malachi 4:6; Luke
One of Mark's more popular seminars is "The Strong-Willed
Parent." When I saw that on the South East Texas Home School
Association (SETHSA) summer conference list in Houston in June,
2000, I knew there was a typo. Surely they meant "The Strong-Willed
Child." Gulp. It was no typo. Mark wanted to challenge
parents to reach the hearts of their children rather than merely
forcefully or forcibly controlling behavior. To do that, he told
us, we'd have to change.
"What?", I thought. "I came looking for ways to
change my children", but Mark wanted me to let the Lord change
me. Big swallow. Squirming in my seat. Conviction. Tears.
Surrender: "Yes, Lord. I'd rather hold their hearts and mold
them for You. I don't want them scared of me or in a battle of wills
with me. Change me. Let my heart be worthy of their imitation. Let
my heart beat with Yours, be like Yours."
I wiped the tears and nodded in agreement with Mark: "Unless
the heart is reached there can be no lasting change."
But don't think Mark was always Mr. Sensitive Shepherd to his flock.
Even born again and loving Jesus, Mark's heart needed work. Faithful
as always, the Father had His good pleasure remolding His man.
When I was born-again, my very first pastor would say, "Don't
tell me what a good Christian you are. I'm looking at your children.
I can see exactly what kind of a Christian you are." This didn't
bother me at the time; I had no children in 1986. But now I can
understand, as Hamby came to see, that the Lord often uses children
to spotlight our - uh - shall we say "deficiencies." Having
been "spotlighted" by my own children, I could, in June
2000, hurrumpff and laugh, enjoying Mark's story about being a shepherd.
"One of my most memorable experiences as a shepherd was
the day that my sheep followed me for the very first time. This
event, however, didn't take place overnight. For five years my
sheep refused to follow me! They ran from me, they stamped their
feet at me, and they were an embarrassment to me. But they followed
my (then) seven-year-old daughter. They knew her voice and they
ate out of the palm of her hand. But me? One look at me and they
gave a loud bleating sound that sent shivers up my spine, especially
when visitors were around.
To make matters worse, Rambo (our ram that we named for obvious
reasons) tried to kill me several times. You can be sure I didn't
take this lightly. Since strangulation didn't work, there were
several times that I had the scope on him. I often employed this
method of using the scope on my rifle to check the sheep in the
upper pasture. I found that when Rambo came into sight, my finger
seemed to find its way to the trigger! No, I never did shoot him,
but if I could do it again, I might just hold on to that trigger
a little more firmly.
One time in particular, Rambo stood on his hind legs and "rammed"
me square in the back. As I lay on the ground trying to catch
my breath, I thought he had broken my back. I looked up to see
the beast was standing above me, ready to finish me off! I quickly
rolled and he missed me. But what happened next was the best part.
Losing all sense of humanity and filled with anger, I surprised
him with full-Nelson chokehold. My wife, the protector of all
who stand in my way, yelled down from the back porch, saying,
"What on earth are you doing to that poor animal?" Holding
on for my life, I retorted, "What does it look like I'm doing!?
I'm trying to kill him; he tried to kill me first!"
I think you have a pretty good picture of my early days as a
shepherd. My relationship with my sheep was a hate-hate relationship.
I couldn't wait to have some of them for dinner, but my daughter
loved them so much that she threatened never to speak to me again
if I touched one of her beloved sheep. So I was stuck. Little
did I know that God would use my relationship with the sheep to
teach me that I had a problem with anger, and that forceful control
leads only to broken relationships.
It was 1994. My health had been poor for several years now, and
for the most part, I was on empty. To make matters worse, Jonathan,
my oldest son, had just told me that he hated me. Without realizing
it, I had been treating him just like Rambo-controlling him with
threats, anger, and forcefulness.
After several newborn lambs had died due to an unforcasted severe
storm, my daughter had informed me that I wasn't a good shepherd.
My heart was pierced. God sure knows how to get our attention.
I was determined that during the next lambing season not one lamb
would die even if I had to stay in the barn the whole season.
Then it happened.
I had spent eight weeks in the barn during our third lambing
season. About the sixth week, after sheering, de-worming, immunizing,
and bottle-feeding, I noticed that the ewes were behaving differently
toward me. They were observing my movements, and were not as anxious
around me. Now, picture this: there I was, not feeling very well,
with no energy and little hope; but I was giving these sheep the
best care I could give. I often sat in the hay, reading the Psalms
and praying aloud, holding a lamb that nibbled on my finger. I
truly began to love these creatures of God, and the mother sheep
knew it. Then one day, as I walked to the other side of the barn,
all seventy sheep moved toward me. I walked to the other side,
and they followed. I quickly opened up all the stall doors and
then began parading up the path toward our house and when I looked
back, all the mothers and their lambs were following! As we approached
the house, I yelled, "Jennifer! Debbie!!! Look outside!"
When my little girl came to the window, I saw a great big smile,
and knew exactly what she was thinking: "Today, My Daddy
became a shepherd." And I did! When the sheep knew that I
really cared, especially for their lambs, they began to follow.
No more control, no more anger, no more forcefulness. Psalm 40:11
I believe captures the essence of the shepherd and his sheep best:
He tends his flock like a shepherd
He gathers the lambs in his arms
He carries them close to his heart
He gently leads those that have young.
Notice that the shepherd gathers the lambs in his arms and not
upon his shoulders. The reason for this is to calm the lambs by
allowing them to hear the beating of the shepherd's heart, not
the beating of his voice. This is what my son was yearning for
all of those years.to hear the beating of my heart not the beating
of my voice.
It has now been seven years since I experienced this incredible
transformation. Is my son following? Yes indeed. But only when
he hears my heart beating louder than my voice!"
That's what got to me: are my children hearing my heart beating
louder than my voice?
To learn more about Lamplighter, you can join or view the discussion
then go to The Lamplighter Group-Grace Filled Parenting. Their character-building,
biblical, insights stories can be viewed at www.lamplighterpublishing.com.
You may also email Mark@lamplighterpublishing.com.
A free catalog and biblical insights newsletter is available online,
or call toll free 888.246.7735.