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How Elvis Taught Me That the First Will Be Last

Many years ago, our family lived in Memphis. One day our 16-year-old son was reading the local paper and saw that a movie about Elvis Presley was going to be filmed at Graceland. The film company was looking for extras, and our son desperately wanted to volunteer. So I took him to the sign-up area on the specified day. Since he was a minor, I had to sign my name on a form, giving permission for him to be in the movie. Several weeks later I got a call from the production company. They said they didn't want teenagers in the film, so they asked if my wife, Carla, and I would like to be extras. The timing was good for our schedule, so we agreed. I had never been on a movie set, and I thought it might be interesting.

We drove out to the Graceland area at the appointed day and time, and we soon found ourselves in the middle of a madhouse. Hundreds of people milled around, trying to figure out where to go, what to do. We were finally interviewed and taken to the wardrobe tent. After they had given us our costumes, an assistant producer spoke to our group, explaining what we would do and how we would do it. In the scene they were filming that day, we were to take part in a mock candlelight march in front of Graceland to commemorate Elvis's birthday.

When filming began, Carla and I were placed at the front of the line of people. As we walked along the wall in front of Graceland, we were supposed to raise our candles. I remember thinking how strange it was to think that I was in the front of that line, in full view of the camera. I wondered what Carla and I would look like on film. But my dream-come-true was short lived. Just as we were ready to film the first take, the director told our group to turn around. And just like that—we were at the back of the line. What a disappointment! We spent 14 hours on that set, filming what turned out to be about one minute in the movie. If you ever see the movie Finding Graceland, pay attention to the candlelight walk in front of the mansion. Mine is the hand holding the short candle at the back of the line. I think.

When I reflect on my movie experience—of being at the front of the line before being turned around and sent to the back—I cannot help but think of Jesus' words in Matthew 19:30: "Many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first." In God's economy, many surprises will emerge.

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