Sunday, November 10, 2013

Dad and Billy Graham, once more...

Is it just me, or does everyone who grew up during the Billy Graham crusades want to cry when "Just as I am" begins to play and people start to get up out of their seats and move to the front of the stadium?

This is a re-post, but it was on my mind after watching Billy Graham the other night on TV... so many years, and so many memories later, and now he is close to the very heaven he has preached about his whole life... his life and ministry are woven into my own life, and probably yours...
                                    --------

I've mentioned a lot of big names on these blogs, and I'm not typically a 'name dropper'. However, I realize that for me... the circle of my parents friends during my growing up years, was full of those names.

They were our 'normal'... the people I grew up with, they influenced my life and my thinking... I think it's as an adult that I have come to appreciate and respect the names and faces of my childhood. As I have learned more about what it means to walk with God, I so deeply appreciate the lives that were my example, then... and now...

From my very youngest childhood days, Billy Graham was part of our family's life. (This is dad with Billy) We used to travel to Winona Lake, Indiana during the summer, where years earlier, my dad was part of the ministry when he and Billy Graham were young men, and they all teamed together during those Youth for Christ summer conferences.

It was during one of these conferences, when Billy asked these men to pray for him specifically as God seemed to be leading him into a ministry of evangelism. He wanted to be certain it was God's will. My dad was one of those he asked to pray with him, and later, called on him to fly to Los Angeles during his first crusade... God was beginning to do some great and exciting things through Billy's ministry.

My dad's ministry was prayer and revival, always his top 2... my mom used to say golf was #3 and she was #4 :)...

All through the years, Billy and dad were in close touch. Dad was part of many of his crusades, leading the prayer teams that preceded a crusade. Even though dad had his own ministry, there was always a heart connection between he and his friend... Billy. Dad loved Billy Graham.

Our families were very similar as we grew up. The 'dads' were evangelists, and traveled all over the world, while the 'moms' stayed home and raised all of us. It's no wonder I love the writings of Ruth Graham...

This was one of the letters Billy sent to my dad through the years. It's especially meaningful to me, as he said... "the thing that I love about you Armin, is that you have remained absolutely true to the gospel"... and that is exactly the way I feel about my dad. His passion for God never dimmed, and his focus and obedience stayed strong and steady through his whole life. He ran his race well...

It challenges us, as his children... it's what my prayer for my own life has shaped into. But it has taken me a whole lot longer! Sometimes when I learn something new about the Lord, or obey when it's difficult, or trust Him when it's not what I feel like doing... I can picture a smile on Jesus' face, and right over his shoulder... my mom and dad are smiling too!
                                           
                                                                     ------------------

I know that when Billy Graham goes to heaven, after he has met Jesus face to face... my dad will be among those in the front of the crowd to welcome him.

21 comments:

NanaNor's said...

Hi there, What a precious post and what a legacy you have-not only for your own life but for those who come after you-to lead them as your dad and Mr. Graham did. Thank you for sharing-again it was a blessing to read.
Hugs and blessings, Noreen

Patrina said...

"I can picture a smile on Jesus' face, and right over his shoulder... my mom and dad are smiling too!"

Indeed they are!! This is precious!!! So precious!! What a legacy to have that in writing about your Dad remained absolutely TRUE to the gospel!!! Amen!!! Praise the Lord!!

You are who you are today largely because of your spiritual heritage!!! I would speak of it as often as the Lord directed!! Doesn't matter if they bare big names - it's the power of the Lord behind those names that you're pointing to. The soil that tendered you was a very rich soil indeed!! We are so blessed to have been born into Christian families and Christian ministry...

I was the third child but the first born into a Christian home....in fact, maybe I've shared this with you before, but mama was about birth me - when she kneeled at the altar to give her life to Christ! Only in the last several months - has this knowledge come to my attention. This explains why I have felt the Presence of the Holy Spirit in my life for as long as I can remember - even before I accepted Christ and received the Holy Spirit as my comforter and guide into TRUTH. Like John, I must have leaped for JOY in the instant that mama gave her life to Christ!!! I've been leaping for JOY ever since. Life hasn't always been filled with JOY - but the spiritual hertiage that goes before me has served me well. I have never wavered in my faith! This doesn't mean that I have not sinned - oh no! But my faith has always brought me to the Bridge of TRUTH! I am His! and He is Mine!! For eternity!

So glad that God planted you in my Garden!!

God bless you and yours!
Patrina <")>><
His watchman on the wall

myletterstoemily said...

what a precious heritage you have! i love the billy stories
and was just talking about how much i admired him today!

small world.

Just Be Real said...

Oh my gosh what precious memories you have there! I was led to the Lord through a Billy Graham crusade that was on television as I sat alone in my bedroom one night back in 1977. Wow! Blessings and thank you for sharing dear one! Special Special Special!

Shirl said...

What a blessed upbringing you had!

Karen said...

I am so glad you shared this. It is nice to hear that the people I know from a distance are just as real and humble "up close". There was a gas station on property that adjoined ours when we were kids and BG stopped there to fill up on evening. It was the talk of the town. I first understood about salvation listening to a Billy Graham TV broadcast in the 1950's and then had the privilege of praying with people at the Louisville Crusade in 2001. I know you are thankful and proud of your parents. God bless you.

Cathy said...

Aw, what a sweet post. You are really blessed. You know I just saw on Twitter tonight where the President had visited Billy Graham. He certainly looked happy in the picture. Blessings ~

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

I think I might have told you this already, but my husband and I have been to the Cove several times over the past few years. What an incredible mountain retreat envisioned and created by the Grahams. Following one particular visit, I wrote a letter to them and would later receive a small note from Ruth, thanking me for my words and the remembrance it brought to her regarding those earlier days when the Cove was but a dream. It means a great deal to me... not so much in what it said, but the fact that she took the time to write it and that something I wrote blessed her heart.

My husband and I found the original 3 stone altar built by the Grahams in that place, off an obscure path that carves its way through the trees. Even as they initially knelt and prayed at that altar for God's work to be done on that mountain, we knelt and prayed and asked for God's work to be done in our lives.

We should all have at least one or two "Billy Grahams" in our lives. My childhood was inundated with many of them. As a daughter of a professor of preaching at Asbury Theological Seminary, it seems as if my days were constantly filled with solid, biblical teaching/preaching. A heritage, I'm afraid to say, that meant precious little to me at the time, but means so very much to me now.

Anyway, thanks for sharing more of your story with me. Your life is a worthy read. Blessings and peace to you this week.

~elaine

Debbie said...

Sonja, I'm just now having the opportunity to read a few blogs and I wanted to check on yours. How exciting! I love Billy Graham too. How wonderful that your dad was a friend of his and that you got to meet him.

Since I was a child, I've admired Billy Graham. My grandpa loved him too. I remember the crusade at Madison Square Garden in NYC and how excited my grandfather was about it. I had the opportunity to go to his last Los Angeles Crusade with my aunt and uncle. To see the people walking forward at the end gave me chills.

I also love Ruth Graham's writings and also their children's. I met the daughter Ruth at a Phoenix conference a few years ago. She was signing books but took some time to speak with me about a concern I had. And I also got to meet and shake Ann Graham Lotz's hand. She's a wonderful teacher and I've learned much from her.

Oh sister Sonja, what a wonderful legacy and heritage of love in your family. I hope that you won't be shy and share with us others you have met.

Love you sweet sis!

Debbie

Deborah Ann said...

Whoa! You lead a charmed life, Sonja! I love Billy G. so much I can't even put it into words. My family got to visit his museum on a trip a few years back. I was at a writer's conference, so I missed that part of the trip (pouting)...

Sassy Granny ... said...

What a powerful witness, and an equally powerful heritage has been left to you! No doubt your dad and Billy are cut of the same cloth: the robes of righteousness placed by the Lord Himself! No wonder we reserve the highest respect for men of this sort. How rare are they.

Thank you for sharing with us.

Blessings,
Kathleen

Rita said...

Our friends, whether they are famous or not, make a big difference in our lives. They can have such an influence on us as we mature. Glad that you had a part of that.

Just a little something from Judy said...

Before I call it a day, I decided to pay a visit to you and your blog. How very special it was for me to read down through this post. Somehow, it did not surprise me that your dad and Billy Graham were instrumental in each others lives and good friends. What a Godly heritage God has given to you. No wonder you have the ability to share your heart and your God in such a beautiful, and meaningful way. I so enjoyed these pictures, and the words you shared. I have the utmost respect for the Graham family. I too have attended his crusades, read books that the family wrote...one of my favorite being the book the Mrs. Graham wrote about her son Franklin..."Rebel With A Cause". I love the honesty and humility with which she shared her heartaches and heart prayers as she went through the difficult teen years of his life. I can't imagine how many people were blessed and encouraged by that book. I was one of them.

As for the privileges you had to sit under respected men of God during your growing up years, I know that left a huge impact on your life. I also had that privilege. My dad was good friends with Jack Wrytzen. He served on the board of WOL International for 20 years of his life. What wonderful memories that holds for me and my family.
Thank you for sharing two very special men and the impact that they had on your life. It sure helps me understand why you are the beautiful woman that you are. I am blessed to have met you, even if it is only through the blogging world.

Terry said...

dear sonja...when i read the last line of this post, it made me cry..i don't know you very well yet and so i didn't know that your dad and mom are in heaven and even though you know where they are safe with jesus, it must be sad for you at times...what a great testimony they left with your family!
i have always loved billy graham and george beverly shea is my favourite singer. he has always been my hero.
i remember one time that larry king was interviewing mr. graham and he told him at the end of the interview, "you know that i am an atheist mr. graham but one thing i know for sure that if there IS such a thing as god and if there IS such a thing as a heaven, you are one person that will be there"!
god bless you sonja!...love terry

Vee said...

Such sweetness... If your poor mom was # 4, where were you kids? Ha! You may know that Glen Beck has shared a conversation he had with a daughter of Billy's at her dad's birthday party last week. Beck says that she expressed her dismay at having to share her father with so many. Did you ever feel that in your family? One thing is certain, there are many more "in the family" than would have been there otherwise because of the work of men like your father and Billy Graham. And I thank you and those who worked behind the scenes for that, too!

Terry said...

dear sonja, i am glad that you reposted this post and i have read it for the first time..when, as a teenager in my beloved manitoba, i used to watch bully graham every chance that i got and it used to puzzle me whenever at the end of the preaching, i cried..i discovered later the reason for this was that i really wished that i was going forward with all those people so that i could be saved'
how fortunate you were to have met billy graham!..my favourate singer while i was growing up was "george beverly shea"...i used to write bunny, billy graham's daughter for a while back in those days. i am wondering is she the girl that married leighton ford sonja?
one time teddy, my brother was able to convince dad golden to go to a leighton ford crusade and dad golden told teddy that he had never heard such a preacher that he knew was telling the truth and was not a phony with such a happy face!....ever since then dad golden has said that the only tv preacher that is not a phony is billy graham....of course he has never ever sieen charles stanley and the likes..
guess what sonja?...somebody else up in heaven is waiting to see bily grahma face to face again and that is stuart hamblen....when he got saved the headlines said that stuart hamblen hits the sawdust trail"...he was a singer in mom golden's day and she said he was quite the character!...i guess when john wayne, his friend told him that he should write a song about the change in his life, that it was a good idea and so stu went on to write, "it is no secret what god can do"...speaking of which when john wayne was on his death bed, the only preacher that he wanted by his death bed was billy graham!
such a great post dear sonja...i really enjoyed it!

guess what...last night we talked to felisol on skype!.what a thrill it was to see her face to face and to hear her voice..i looked after on the record of calls and it said that we, bernie ,i and felisol talked for one hour and 55 minutes!...the time just flew and one nice thing happened...dad golden phoned and he and his "norway" had a short talk and now he is telling me that i had better bring my tablet over to him and mom golden and he will talk to her face to face....you see dad golden is felisol's prayer child.....thank you for this great post and thank you for listening to all my chatter...love terry

Sharon said...

What a lovely post, Sonja! Personally, I'm one of the people in line who wants to meet your dad one day...

GOD BLESS!

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

Love this, Sonja. I've watched the video two times now, weeping through both of them. Of course, I thought about your father when watching and the beautiful connection you share with the Graham family. Several years ago, I received a letter from Ruth Graham. We'd spent time at the Cove, and I wrote a piece about it. It was share with the Grahams and Ruth's response is one I will cherish always. I look forward to sharing heaven with all of you!

peace~elaine

Just a little something from Judy said...

I loved reading this post, especially in light of the fact that we sat and watched him last week on Fox. What a gift he is to our world, from our God who loves us so much! In fact, my mother called me yesterday and I asked her what she was doing? She told me that she just finished reading her latest Decision magazine and was thanking God again for Billy Graham and his ministry.
Thank you so much for sharing this post with us. So meaningful!

Debbie said...

This is such a beautiful tribute. Those were (are!) great men of the faith, and you were so blessed to very literally be a part of their earthly family.

I watch the special the other night and sat kind of speechless as the pieces fell off the cross at the end. What a wonderful picture he drew of God's amazing grace.

And yes, I tend to cry singing "Just As I Am".

Sassy Granny ... said...

Now I have a huge lump in my throat. What a beautiful heritage!!