Tag Archives: Ruth

My Friend Billy Graham

How could I be so brash as to claim Billy Graham was my friend? I never talked to him, even on the phone. I never received a personal note or letter. I never shared a cup of coffee or glass of water with him. I never shook his hand.

Yet I confidently do claim he was my friend. He was America’s pastor and he had the God-given talent of reaching by television, radio, movies, and the written word into our very homes, sharing the love of God in a personal and compelling way. The man who took the message of Christ’s grace all over the world was never rude or arrogant or unkind, just straightforward and real, as much so to us in our living rooms as to the millions in huge arenas.

I miss him from this planet. But I rejoice with him for being reunited with his Ruth, his friends George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows, and for seeing Jesus face to face. And I can’t imagine his joy as he meets some of the millions who are in heaven because of his messages.

I was eight years old when I first listened to Billy Graham on his radio show “The Hour of Decision.” The year was 1950. My father only listened to a few shows but that was one of them. I guess I knew it wasn’t something a kid of my age should volunteer to listen to so I took it all in from a tiny attic room right over Daddy’s study. I was fascinated by the way Billy Graham talked so fast yet so clearly. I also liked to hear him say “God bless you real good” at the end of the program.

Not long after his show was aired, Billy Graham held a tent revival in Atlanta. Because of rare circumstances, my mother and I accompanied my big brother John to one night of that crusade. I had already made a commitment to the Lord Jesus and knew that I was a redeemed child of God. Maybe that’s why that night was so very special. I remember the smell of the thick sawdust on the floor and how thrilled I was to see Billy Graham, even if he was so far away he was only about an inch high.

As a teenager in the 1950s I was stirred by the occasional messages I heard on television as Billy Graham spoke to phenomenal crowds. We acquired a book about Graham which had black and white pictures of him and his family. I started praying for them. Ruth Graham’s writing was an inspiration to me. I wanted to write like that myself.

Early in my marriage to Charles Graham (no kin to Billy!) he was asked to be chairman of the committee preparing for and presenting a BGEA movie, “Time To Run,” in our small town. That very rich experience gave both of us opportunities we couldn’t have imagined. I was a counselor following the movie for several showings. I counseled a sweet twelve year old girl who gave her life to Jesus. In the years of following up her commitment with visits, a backyard Bible club, and prayer with her family, we built a friendship I cherished. She died of some rare disorder when her son was still quite young.

My church in Cairo, about 1990, provided a bus for a large group of us to go hear Billy Graham at the civic center in Tallahassee. He was no longer the young preacher speaking so fast trying to get all his words in. His hair was white, he leaned on a stool, his words were more measured than before. But there was the same passion, the same zeal, unsquelched after all those years. And the power of God Almighty was present that night as crowds responded to his call for commitment.

I have read several of Billy Graham’s books and gained spiritual strength from each one, “Angels,” “Just As I Am,” and others. But the little paperback “It’s My Turn” by Ruth has given me recently the sweetest peek into the Grahams’ home life. I’ve been reading it in small segments to my Magnolia Place devotional group. Ruth kept the home fires burning, literally, while Billy was away for sometimes weeks at a time. But she sometimes traveled with him. She tells of once when she was counseling at the London Crusade in 1954. She sat down beside an attractive young woman and asked if she could help her. The lady said wistfully, “I just wonder what it would be like to wake up and find yourself married to that man!” Ruth answered her, “You’ve asked the right person. I’ve been doing it for the past eleven years.” Ruth followed up that funny story with her statement of surety that if she could have picked from all the men in the world, she would still have chosen Billy. She said she would rather see a little bit of him than a whole lot of any other man.

But back to Billy’s books. I have his very last book. I’ve read several that he thought might be his last one. But this really is: “Where I Am.” I’ve peeped into it just enough to know from, Franklin’s foreword, that Billy based his title on John 14:3 which is words of Jesus saying, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

Where I Am. Billy told his son Franklin with resolve, “When I die, tell others that I’ve gone to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ–that’s where I am.

Worldwide Pictures, an arm of BGEA, has done videos of classic crusades by Billy Graham. I just watched one including clips of the London 1954 crusade. Consistently, throughout that crusade, and all his ministry, we could hear Billy preaching “the Bible says,” and emphasizing that the awesome actions, the swelling crowds of converts, was because of God and only Him. And even now as I hold my iPad in my lap and watch the young Billy preaching so passionately, a message comes up on the screen telling the viewer how to find help, how to know he/she is going to heaven. Billy’s gone to heaven, but his ministry is still going on here!

Someone has said that perhaps Billy’s death will bring on a greater revival than ever happened in his life. I think that would take the participation of all God’s people, all of us who claim to be Billy’s friends and, more importantly, friends of his master, Jesus.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Intreat Me Not

Beautiful bright valentines pull our attention in all the stores. Hallmark cards, Jared’s and Kay Jewelers, and all the sweet delicacies tempt us on television. But there are innovative options. At our┬áplace beautiful music sweeps through the house, Mozart and Beethoven, Strauss waltzes, John Denver and his guitar, and our favorite hymns sung by George Beverly Shea and Jim Nabors, Sandi Patti and Amy Grant. Charles gave me a new Bose acoustic wave system as a valentine. We hadn’t been able to play CD’s for ages and I’m having such a good time! It’s so beautiful! And now I’m in a quandary. What, oh what, can I give him that will halfway express my feeling?

I would write him a poem, but I can only write a poem if, as someone wisely said, the poem “bites me on the leg.” This year, so far, I’ve had no bites. I would bake him a huge cake but he’s watching his cholesterol and that would be an awful lot of cholesterol to watch. I could give him a new tool, his favorite of gifts, but he’d have to help me pick it out and by the time we finished the transaction it would be as far from a valentine as the mountains from the sea.

Thinking back fifty years to when we were googly-eyed and dreaming of the future brings me straight to the verse I’m quoting today, Ruth 1:16: Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:

These words are so familiar and precious to me partly because they were a vital part of Charles’ and my wedding vows in 1965. Perhaps you said these words, too, as you and your spouse-to-be lit one big candle from two smaller ones.

My mother saw a correlation between slowly simmered meals and good marriages. And that wasn’t just because she considered good food to be such an important part of one’s living. She loved symbolism and seeing pictures in one area of life to help in another. She used to worry that we young cooks never spent long enough preparing food. “Vegetables need to simmer at the back of the stove for hours,” she’d say. “You girls scurry around at the last minute and then wonder why your beans don’t have that robust flavor.”

She also said that young folks are not determined enough these days that their marriages will work. “If it doesn’t work” should never enter one’s head, she believed. She’d be the first to admit that building a strong marriage is not easy. She was eighteen and my dad thirty-six when they married. Raising ten children and caring for an aging spouse whose health was deteriorating was sometimes very difficult. More than difficult!

Whether making yeast bread, simmering roasts, or building relationships, Mamma would say they all take a lot of time and effort. Commitment means not giving up. “I do” means putting your all into making a marriage work. “You can count on me,” means you’ll be who you are in the right place at the right time, fully trustworthy.

Your people shall be my people, and your God my God…” This is the real key, Mamma would say. When God is part of the commitment then you’ll have His encouragement and His muscle behind you to push you up the difficult slopes and hold your hand in the rocky places.

Back to that valentine. Do you have yours ready? Of course a card with the very right words is really perfect. Or maybe an extravagant home-cooked dinner? Maybe just a simple home-cooked dinner? Maybe a salad at Zaxby’s or a night out at his favorite restaurant, like the Cairo City Grille? A letter, handwritten in red? I’m thinking….maybe a pair of new boots for my hardworking man. Every step he’d take would be blessed!

We’ll keep thinking, won’t we? We have a few days yet.

Lord, I pray for sturdy healthy marriages in America, among Your people, that we may again be the strong nation You desire us to be. Help us as we call on You and give us patience to take time in our relationships, in all our relationships. And, Lord, because I know You care so intimately for us in our daily struggles, please light an idea bulb for me so I’ll know the very best thing to give my very precious valentine. Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized