Anxiety and Fear

I have written a book about fear: Fear Not Tomorrow, God is Already There. I base it on the fact that Jesus is the exact representation of God. So I took a look over Jesus’ shoulder as He interacted with real people in real time as recorded by the Gospel writers. I wanted to examine how people reacted to Him. Were they afraid? Was He approachable? Was He harsh? Did His presence bring comfort?

It was a great book to write – I think it is my favorite.

Well, I wrote it. I taught it. Now God wants me to live it! Funny how He does that…

For a long time I have struggled with balance issues. Doctors have proposed Parkinson’s, hydrocephalus, etc. I have seen all sorts of doctors and physical therapists. Finally they discovered a large, benign tumor in my spinal column. You will remember that a year and a half ago, I had back surgery to remove it. There were complications – no fun.

My balance did seem to get better after that but then the issues came back and gradually got worse and worse. I was afraid people would see me walking down the street and report that they saw Ruth Graham drunk! That’s how I walked. I went back to my neurosurgeon for a check up and told him the things I was experiencing. He sent me to another neurosurgeon.

This doctor did not want to do a spinal tap to determine if it was hydrocephalus because I’d had so much work done in my spinal column and he didn’t think it would be good to poke another hole in it. He examined me and determined the best explanation for my symptoms (falling, lack of balance, small script…) was hydrocephalus. He was very concerned about my falling…I was too as I’d already chipped a front tooth and split my lip.

So, all that to say, I am going to have a shunt put in my brain with a catheter which will take the extra fluid from my brain to my abdomen where it will be absorbed. Not an uncommon surgery – my own father had it done years ago.

Last week I spent the day in Richmond to have all the pre-op work done at the hospital where I will have the surgery, hence the title of this blog: “Fear and Anxiety.” I experienced both!

To have them shave part of my head, drill through my skull and place something in my brain…is anxiety making. I’m usually quite calm and not anxious. But I am experiencing a new level of stress and anxiety. And fear.

All the things I wrote about, I will practice. I do believe God is in control. He has a purpose and it is good. I will trust Him through this. When I was in the hospital after my spinal surgery I remember hearing Chris Tomlin’s song, “You’re a good, good Father.” I found that to be so true. He was with me.

And He knows my weaknesses and remembers I am but dust. I wish I could declare with courage that I am not afraid…that would not be authentic. I am not sure I’m as afraid as I am anxious. Back surgery was one thing but messing with my brain is another. I know I have a good team of doctors and a fine hospital. So I have taken care of the possible and leave the impossible up to Him!

People who have this surgery usually show a remarkable difference afterwards so I am looking forward to walking with confidence. Looking forward to getting my balance back. Wow. It has been a long struggle but the end is in sight. And I have a new empathy for those who do struggle with balance and walking. It is very hard to feel so insecure and not be able to do the things you once enjoyed.
I have a new appreciation for simple things – like walking, gardening, even grocery shopping!

I thank the Lord that we seem to have found the problem and it can be corrected –next Monday, June 11th. Please pray for my surgeons, my nurses, my recovery and that this truly will be the answer to my stumbling and falling…

And if it isn’t, that God will give me the grace I need to live fully for Him.

 

Divorce and Remarriage

Divorce within the Church has been controversial. I have talked to so many who have been wounded by Church teaching. I thought it was the “unforgivable sin.” Some church traditions have taught that divorce is not permitted unless there is adultery or a divorced person is not allowed to remarry and if they do, they are committing adultery. A divorced person cannot serve in the Church.

Many have been wounded by such legalistic teaching. We must remember that Jesus broke principles over people – not people over principles. If I err it will be on the side of mercy and grace because I believe that is the side Jesus stands on.

II Corinthians 3:13 says we live in the freedom of Christ – but that is not to mean we can use our freedom as a license to do what we want. Galatians 5:13 warns us not to turn our freedom into sinful opportunity.

God’s original plan for us was that marriage was to be a lifetime commitment between a man and a woman. It was to illustrate God’s relationship with His bride – the Church – therefore it is sacred, not to be treated lightly.

Marriage is not necessarily for our happiness alone but is an instrument for spiritual growth and development. It is a sacred covenant that should never be broken. That is His ideal. It is our ideal. But we do not live in an ideal world.

I believe legitimate grounds for divorce are: infidelity which includes pornography, homosexuality, sexual perversion; abandonment which can happen while you are living in the same house, no communication, emotional isolation and not supporting the family; and abuse which can be physical, emotional and verbal as well as neglect.

Malachi 2:16 is used as a definitive statement, “God hates divorce.” God doesn’t hate the piece of paper the judge signs. He hates the breaking of the covenant bond which can be adultery, abuse or abandonment. God may hate divorce but He loves the divorced person.

This may be news to you but divorce was God’s idea! (Deuteronomy 24:1-2)

There are 2 different words for divorce in Hebrew but there is only one in English. One word means “abandonment” having no legal right or standing in the community – not a legal divorce. Desertion. It was like being in “no man’s land.” Divorce was God’s mercy for those abandoned. The other word is to cut marital bonds – a legal divorce giving equal rights for both parties to remarry.

In the new Testament there are the same two concepts but Paul introduced another: “leaving”, not a legal divorce. If they leave they cannot remarry because they are still married. In Mark 10:12 there was no legal divorce. With a legal divorce one was permitted to remarry.

In Corinth there was such a climate of immorality Paul taught that each was to have their own wife or husband – no wife-swapping or polygamy. When Paul said it was better to remain unmarried it wasn’t because he was opposed to marriage or thought marriage was a lesser state, he thought Jesus’ return was imminent. He didn’t want anything to distract from serving the Lord.

When he talked about church leaders being married to one person he was talking about polygamy not divorce. How many good people have been banned from Church leadership or ministry over that one statement!

I have struggled with this issue because I have been divorced and remarried. It was not easy. But I do know God’s grace in manifest ways. Divorce is ugly involving loneliness, rejection, sense of failure, loss of self-esteem, criticism, financial problems, the children suffer…it goes on and on.

Divorce may be necessary but it is always a tragedy. It is tragic with difficult consequences but staying in a toxic marriage is not necessarily better or more godly.

I’ll write more about this issue in the coming weeks!

What Happens When We Die?

As you can imagine, I have been thinking about heaven and what happens when we die in the last few weeks. The fact that my Father and Mother are together in heaven brings it closer. It gives me a warm feeling to know they are there with Jesus and fellowshiping with all the Saints. I don’t know all that it entails but I know it must be wonderful.

But what do they see or know of us here on earth? No one knows. No one has ever gone and come back to give us a report. Lazarus came back but never spoke of it – or we have no record of it. Saint John is the only one who got to peek into heaven and wrote quite a spectacular account of it. Some of it is hard to understand and some of it is symbolic. There were others who had visions of what it was like and they are all similar – it is spectacular, beyond imagination, dazzling!

Far greater minds than mine have tackled this subject. I’m not interested in all the theology of it…I’m interested as a daughter who lost her “Daddy” and wants to know if he is still present with me in some way. Does he know what’s going on? Does he see my heart; know my struggles?

People tell me they are sorry for my loss. I didn’t lose him – I know where he is. I’m confident of that – and I am confident that I will join him one day. I grieve his absence from “now”.

What about now? There are times, I will admit, that it seems lonely when I think that he is not at home. No. I didn’t get to see him all that often but I knew I could – anytime. Now I can’t. I knew I could pick up the phone and hear his voice. But it’s been a long time since that happened. (And the recordings you hear of him when he was younger does not sound like him, to me. They sound “tinny” and too Southern. Maybe back then that’s what he did sound like and I just don’t remember his voice that way. When he did that CD called, “My Hope” – that’s how I remember his voice.)

And there are times I feel his presence. It’s a warm presence – gentle, kind – like he was.

I shared with the world at his service that my Father showed me what God was like. I see God as warm, kind, gentle. I’m glad I do. So many see Him as harsh and vindictive. I don’t think the Bible teaches that. Yes, He hates sin. He is a holy god and sits in judgment on sin. But when you are washed by the shed blood of Jesus, there is no fear.

Paul tells us that when we are absent from the body we are present with the Lord – like stepping into another room or dimension. We will step into a warm, gentle, kind Presence Who is glad to see us and welcomes us.

 

Taking Daddy Home

These have been remarkable days as we have seen the outpouring love for my father which overflowed to me. Such a blessing to all of us. If you haven’t seen the coverage then I suggest you go to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and watch.

Quite incredible from the motorcade from The Cove to Charlotte – then on to the Capital in Washington where Daddy was honored by “Lying in Honor” in the Rotunda. An honor given to only 4 other people in our history and Daddy is the only clergyman to do so.

Then back to Charlotte to take him home. One final plane ride…it was emotional to see them unload his casket into the hearse for his final trip into Charlotte for the memorial service on Friday.

It was freezing in the tent! Daddy started in a tent in Los Angeles and Franklin thought it would be appropriate. Fortunately, my older sister brought an extra coat for which I was grateful.

Each of us had 3 minutes to speak. I asked the Lord to help me and He did. I felt the freedom from the Holy Spirit to talk of my father’s lasting legacy to me. It touched many hearts for which I am grateful. I want to pass on my father’s legacy of grace.

I stayed until he was buried – even though it was so cold – but I didn’t want him to be alone. I went back the next day to see it all finished and landscaped. At long last Mother and Daddy are side by side!

And they are enjoying all the splendor of Heaven talking with God face to face.

But how do I feel? To be honest I am sort of numb. While it wasn’t unexpected, it was a surprise. I haven’t begun to process all my emotions. I am in “survival mode” doing what needs to be done.

On top of everything else, a tree fell onto my daughter’s house so they have no heat and are staying with me. My refrigerator is on the “fritz”. Not good timing.

So there has not been a quiet time to think. Reflect. But God has been working in wonderful ways and I praise Him that I have seen His hand in a multitude of situations that could have been difficult. God just paved the way.

He keeps His promises of Isaiah 40:4-5.

Billy Graham’s Children Share at His Funeral

Click the link to hear Gigi, Anne, Ruth and Ned share remembrances:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mM560fQSbSA

 

Click here to hear Franklin give the eulogy: ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLEV_5y6ECQ

My Father is in Heaven!

These past weeks I have sensed a crowd gathering at Heaven’s gate in anticipation of my Father’s arrival. What excitement and eager anticipation on both sides. As the book’s title says, “Heaven is for real.” And for those who have put their faith in Jesus as their Savior, Heaven is where we will spend eternity. My Father is there.
My youngest daughter said she would love to be a fly on the wall (surely there are no flies in Heaven!) when her Daddy Bill met Jesus. I thought about that. I doubt it was really any different. My Father has been walking with Jesus for so many years… I imagine they hugged deeply as Jesus whispered, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” It was a brother greeting a brother, a Father welcoming His son… The familiarity had long ago been established.
And no doubt, it was a battle-scarred warrior returning from the front to lay his victory at the feet of his King amid great celebration. The warrior claims no honor for himself but gives it all to his King. Many have commented on my Father’s great humility. It was because he understood his mission – it was not to amass the world’s acclaim or admiration or fame. It was not go gain wealth – that was one of his fears. It was to do his Lord’s bidding. It was not to build a kingdom but The Kingdom.
So many have commented to me that my Father’s reward will be huge in Heaven. No doubt it will be. But perhaps not as we would reward – for the vast crowds that came to hear him preach or the thousands who responded to the invitation to receive Christ. God doesn’t see things as we do. God rewards faithfulness, not numbers. My father will be rewarded for his faithfulness just as the fireman who showed up day after day, or the nurse, or the teacher, or the janitor. No matter what our task, when we do it as unto the Lord faithfully, day after day, whether we feel like it or not, God sees and God will reward us.
The big change is that my Father will have no limitations. His body will be strong and young again. All the travelling and preaching took its toll – for years. He said he never felt the same after the 1957 New York Crusade in Madison Square Garden. The reunion with family members will be sweet since here on earth he was so often unavailable to them. I hope God gives my Mother and Father 1,000 years to be alone and enjoy each other. (There was never any privacy here on earth.)
People have speculated about my father’s wealth and imagined a fortune. Things did not interest my father. He was able to live comfortably but simply for a man of his stature. Though some would consider him a celebrity he considered himself a simple farm boy from North Carolina. His tastes were simple. He loved hotdogs and beans out of a can. He was easy to please. After my Mother died, we went to the house to begin the process of sorting things out. We went room to room. When we got to my Father’s room there was very little of value only sentiment; books, photos, childish drawings from great-grandchildren – not much of worldly value. My sister, Anne, looked around the room slowly and said, “A man of God values little the things of the world.” My Father was a man of God.
But now he has entered the Presence of the One he served. We rejoice that he fought a good fight; he finished his course; he kept the faith and there awaits for him a crown of righteousness.
We will miss him. Most of us have never known a world without him. In a world bereft of courageous, true, honorable men– he was one. I was blessed to call him, “Daddy.”

Robots, God, and Me

I think I’ve told you the I no longer have TV. I can get Netflix but I can’t get regular programming. Oh, I suppose there is a way but I just don’t want that noise in my home. I guess I’ll miss the Olympics – which will sadden me – but it’s a small price to pay. I don’t like being “ramped” up by the television news or programming. For me, it does not honor God or create a godly atmosphere in my home.

However, less you think I am becoming an ignoramus, I do keep up with news on-line. It’s just a different way of getting the news. And I can pick and choose what I want to consume. Not a bad thing.

The Grammys were held this weekend. I didn’t watch but I did read some reports. It sounded and, from the pictures, looked, like a zoo. The clothes, or lack thereof, their verbiage, their opinions are just not important. They think they are very relevant. But it is the blind leading the blind. They choose not to see truth. They are talented but do not acknowledge where their talent came from. They have voices but won’t acknowledge where their very breath comes from.

The reports about robots and the amazing things they do, I find interesting. It started some years ago (or maybe before) with the scanners at the grocery store check out. We are being programmed to accept non-human interaction. I read somewhere that you can now have sex with a robot – touted for “disease proof”. Robots do not breathe. They have no life in them – they are programmed. I don’t care how life-like they get, only God can create life. We are trying to play God. It will never work. He will have the last word.

The Bible says, “He who sits in the heavens laughs.” He laughs at our willful rebellion. And His heart breaks. He loves us so much but we turn our backs on Him and each other. His arms are open wide for us to come to Him and acknowledge Him as the one true God.

 

Surprise Blessings

I had the privilege and joy of giving a short eulogy at Jeannette Clift George’s (she played Corrie ten Boom in the movie, The Hiding Place.) memorial service in Houston this past weekend. It was a glorious service. Dr. Ed Young was so tender in his remarks – I was unaware that his dear wife died recently – this was possibly the first memorial he has done since – must have been difficult. The music was heavenly! Orchestra, choir, soloists – the whole nine yards. And it is a lovely sanctuary – like churches should look!!

I told two quick stories about her and then talked of her relationship with my parents. She was a particularly dear friend to my mother. They were like old-fashioned girlfriends. They shared confidences, silliness, laughter and always something God was teaching them from the scriptures.

Because they were both in the limelight, there were few with whom they could share their burdens and know it would go into a black hole.They trusted each other. They both had a refreshing take on life and did not take themselves too seriously.

One story I told was that Jeannette became concerned that people were not listening to each other. So one day in a receiving line as she shook hands she said to each person, “The elephants are coming. The elephants are coming.” No one heard her or paid any attention! Her point was proven.

One Easter she decided to send Easter cards and sign each one. She thought she had written the scripture verse, Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today, yes and forever.” She was pleased to get all the cards out. Soon she saw a friend at the grocery store and the friend thanked her for the card but said she was surprised by the reference. Jeannette inquired and was horrified to learn she had written Hebrews 12:8, “then ye are bastards.”

Such was Jeannette’s life! Like I said she didn’t take herself so seriously that she couldn’t laugh at herself.

One the way home I arranged for a wheelchair to meet me at the gate in Charlotte – It is a long trek and my balance is not so good right now. (Yes. I am seeing a doctor about it. Two “irritated nerves” in my lower spine.)

The man pushing my chair must have been a frustrated kamikaze pilot! He swerved, almost ran over people – I smiled and waved like a queen but was scared the man would dump me out!! Poor Krista (my traveling companion) kept up – she is a runner! But he was a mess.

When we got to the gate we got seats. In front of me was a nice, well-dressed Black woman. She looked so familiar. I smiled at her and said, “You look so familiar, do I know you?” She was sweet and said, “No, I don’t think so.” But I’d started a conversation and carried on…anyway, she said when she is in Charlotte at the airport she usually goes over to the Billy Graham Library.

Krista leaned in and said “Are you going to tell her who you are?” I gave Krista the evil eye and said “No”. (I fired her last time for doing that at Lakewood Church! I didn’t really fire her.)

I asked this woman what was her favorite part of the library and about her family…just making conversation. It was clear she was a believer. I told her we were coming from Jeannette Clift George’s memorial service. She wasn’t clear who Jeannette was but knew The Hiding Place.

I asked about her kids……chit chat. I asked where she was going – to “Daytona Beach for a MLK event then on to Atlanta.” I told her if she saw Alveda King to give her my love. She said “What is your name?” I told her, and she hugged me, leaned down and whispered, “I am Candy Carson. My husband is Ben Carson.”

We had met on several occasions and so I jumped up and gave her a hug. It was like meeting an old friend. We had met years ago at The Cove when Ben Carson spoke there then again when he and I both spoke for James Robison in Dallas.

It was cute how we both tried to keep our identities under wraps.. And I am quite sure a lot of people say to her, “You look familiar.” Her husband ran for President for crying out loud! We took a photo. I assured her we were praying like mad. I was surprised there was no Secret Service…I guess Cabinet members’ wives don’t qualify.

Anyway, it was a sweet blessing to have a happy reunion at the gate in Charlotte. You just never know what little “surprise blessings” God has in store for you each day!

Let’s look for them each day this year and thank God for them. We are so blessed in so many ways. Maybe keep a journal of them – I know if I didn’t journal, I’d forget so many things.

New Year, Same Ole Me

Have you noticed that we all have great aspirations at the New Year to turn the page, get a brand new start, start over…however you want to phrase it… Maybe make resolutions to quit drinking, lose weight, exercise more…

Well…this year I thought I would focus on Bible memorization. Spend more time focusing on God’s Word — fill my mind with it. I had great intentions, but I’ll be honest with you, I’ve gotten off to a bad start. I was away from home at the New Year so that threw me off, and once I did get home, I got busy packing up the Christmas decorations, getting groceries, writing thank you notes…In other words, I did not make provisions for it.

 

I should have decided when I was going to do it, how I was going to do it and what scripture I was going to tackle first!

My first mistake was that I was not intentional about it. That let all sorts of things crowd it out. So…now I will make my plans and be intentional so I can do what I set out to do.

I will keep you posted on my progress!

Happy New Year!