The Hallmark Channel has become the go-to channel for family friendly television. It is mid-March, and huge audiences are still tuning in to the Thursday night Christmas movies being shown all year long.
I grew up in a time when our family ate dinner together every single night. Then on Sundays, the whole extended family gathered together to share a meal, swap stories, celebrate milestones and make memories.
What is so missing from our lives today was once the norm. I believe Hallmark has found a scratch that needs to be itched. They have discovered a hole the size of a canyon in the hearts of a nation that is begging to be filled.
Watching a Hallmark presentation stirs up the times that the whole family gathered around the television to watch shows like "Carol Burnett," "Ed Sullivan," "Bonanza," "The Waltons," "The Brady Bunch" and so on together. Today it seems every member of the household has its own personal gadget to engage with, but in doing so we miss the experience of community.
I can still remember laughing with my Dad when a Jerry Lewis movie came on or crying with Mom over an old black-and- white romance movie.
When you watch a Hallmark series or movie, you can choose to do so with the addition of social media by your side. You can tweet with like-minded people from all over the country as you view the screen.
Even the very individuals who are starring in the broadcast are joining in the fun. I absolutely love the interaction and look forward to sharing and receiving insights all along the way.
Many wonderful friendships have developed between those of us who faithfully support our favorite Hallmark programs. We live, laugh and cry over each 60 to 120 minutes of pure shared adventure.
If you are devoted to the Signed Sealed Delivered Series, you are branded a POstable.
It was the collective cry of this committed army that moved the powers that be to add a new movie coming later this year. Sunday night Hallmark movie and mystery followers are called Sleuthers. T
he different presentations harken back to the NBC movie mysteries of yesteryear with "Colombo," "McCloud," "McMillan and Wife" and so forth.
There is "Chesapeake Shores" with their Chessies. The bajillion "Countdown To Christmas" movies with people like me who keep their trees up all year.
What many call the crowning jewel though is the series based on the books by Janette Oke entitled "When Calls The Heart" which is presently in its sixth season.
Their fan club goes by the name of The Hearties, and they are many in number and passionate in spirit. I love them all and have had the honor and privilege to have interviewed the stars, the writers and the audience of Hallmark on my “Rudy On The Radio Show.” I feel that in so many ways, we are family.
"When Calls The Heart" made headlines for all the wrong reasons this past week when one of its biggest stars, Lori Loughlin was arrested in connection with her alleged involvement in a college admissions scandal.
Had this been any other show, the actors and actress’ personal behavior in real life rarely interferes with what we expect to see on the screen; but "When Calls The Heart" holds its clientele to higher standards.
It makes you feel pretty good when the Hearties are more than a product to be bought and sold. It is a faith-based way of looking at life where the intangible gifts like love, honor and respect are cherished and held in the highest of regard. Brian Bird, the executive producer of the show, did the unthinkable when he put the show on a temporary hiatus so that they could retool the upcoming episodes.
The almighty dollar can eventually lose its power when men and women have the guts to stand up and allow right and wrong to finally reign supreme. It truly opens the door for life to imitate art.
It can’t be ignored that redemption plays a huge part in the storyline of Hope Valley one of "When Calls The Heart" main players include former Mayor Henry Gowan who represents everything seedy and self-serving about life.
It was his negligence that caused many of the men of what was then known as “Coal Valley” to lose their lives in a mining disaster.
Played to perfection by Martin Cummins, his journey has been one of falling from the top in disgrace to presently learning in humility what true grace is all about.
I know that there are going to be real consequences for the bad decisions that Loughlin has made but I can’t help pray that in playing the role of Abigail Stanton on the show will give her the hope that there are always new beginnings available to those who are willing to admit that they have come to the end of themselves.
The Hearties have been wonderful in their response to this messy situation. But because Brian Bird seeks to honor the Lord with his efforts, what disaster attempted to destroy and trash will ultimately result in producing true treasure.
There is another man connected with this project named Michael Landon, Jr. and we know his heritage is filled with shows that made us laugh, cry and always feel good about the time we spent in front of the television.
Critics will always be quick to offer their so-called expert opinions, but Hearties will dig much deeper with their contributions.
They will search their souls and realize that if we have learned anything from our times together, it is that life will be hard at times, not everything turns out the way we had hoped, people will some days be amazing and other times be involved in disappointing circumstances but faith, hope and love are what matter most.
Even the Bible teaches us that the greatest thing in all the world is unconditional love. It is not I love you because, or I love you if, but simply and yet powerfully I love you.
Stay tuned Hearties, because I believe the best is yet to come and it won’t be long until we will be reunited on a Sunday night hanging out together. The wait will be worth the celebration.
The mess will be redeemed into a masterpiece. There will be more opportunities for us to forgive and forge a new path that leads to bouquets blooming in the desert.
Keep listening because when the heart calls, we will answer strong together.
(ED. NOTE: The author is the senior pastor of The Lighthouse Church, 1248 Route 9 South, Court House.)