Pondering Billy Graham

I’m rarely captivated by the news, but I’ve watched video after video and read press release after press release about Billy Graham. Here’s the thing. They make me weep because I long to speak with such boldness, kindness, and wisdom about the wonder of being loved and invited into a relationship with the King of All. I long to not only have Billy Graham’s courage, but to also have his ability to serve for God’s glory without worry about what people think. He staunchly refused to look to the approval (or disapproval) of humanity and stood firm in his conviction that all glory he received would be returned to his Father.

I watched a video that paid tribute to Billy Graham and kept using the word “he” (referring to Billy) every time it talked about the success of his ministry. “He” built. “He” drew. “He made.” As I watched, I knew that Billy would be upset by the video. He would tell the writer that everything that happened was because God moved, not because Billy built it.

Billy once said, “So many people think that somehow I carry a revival around in a suitcase, and they just announce me and something happens—but that’s not true. This is the work of God, and the Bible warns that God will not share His glory with another. All the publicity that we receive sometimes frightens me because I feel that therein lies a great danger. If God should take His hand off me, I would have no more spiritual power. The whole secret of the success of our meetings is spiritual—it’s God answering prayer. I cannot take credit for any of it.”

Another thing that I admire about Billy Graham was that he was able to reject the doctrinal lines that were so prevalent in the 1950s. He chose to ignore religion and its barriers and to simply preach about the Jesus who gave everything to change lives. I read in one of the articles that conservatives criticized him for not being conservative enough and liberals criticized him for not being liberal enough, and my heart sang. He didn’t engage in the division. He stood for Jesus. There are pictures of him in liturgical attire even though as a young man, he was known for his loud suits and southern baptist style.

I have a personal story about this ability he had to encourage. My father-in-law, Ray, served many years in a small denomination with a lot of doctrinal distinctives. He told me that he and Billy Graham had conversation about these beliefs. He saw Billy again years later and Billy remembered Ray and the conversation. Billy asked Ray if he still believed all that. Ray said yes. Billy shook his hand and told him to keep preaching it. Ray’s eyes shone as he told me the story. It had obviously deeply encouraged this man, who served God with all his strength for over 50 years in that little denomination for little pay or accolade.

I’ve often wondered about this story. Here is what I believe. Billy wanted to see the gospel of Jesus preached, and he saw in Ray, not the ways they were different, but the way they stood together, in the passion for sharing Jesus with the world.

I wish people who loved Jesus could be more like that. I wish I could. I wish as believers we could let go our fears and boxes and focus on what really matters. The truth that Jesus gave His all to save us–to take us from the darkness and confusion of the world and our own soul and free us to live in the hope and light of an eternity that we are already a part of.

As I scroll Facebook and the Internet today, I love learning little tidbits about how Billy lived. From those of you whose lives intersected with his. From the media. Every story shows a focus on the person, a value for the human heart. From my friend Joy, who once served him when he bought a blood pressure machine where she worked, to stories of presidents who said things like, “He helped me choose to stop drinking” and “when he prayed you felt like he was praying for you, not the president.” (Not direct quotes, just writing from memory here.)

I want to be like that too. To value each human soul. To see the cashier at the grocery store instead of just plodding through. To also see the person behind the fame or position as a person not a position.

And a person is all Billy was.

I stared at his picture this morning, stunned that he had preached Jesus to over 200 million people, not including the countless others, like my friend Robbie who watched him on TV and then had a personal encounter with her God at eight years old. I stared at his picture, and I heard, “He was just a man.” And that doesn’t put Billy down. It does what Billy did. It exalts that God who took a humble man and moved through him for the sake of the world HE loves.

One news writer said something like, “We don’t expect another to ever have this kind of impact on the world again.”

I think Billy would balk at that statement. I do. Because it wasn’t about Billy, though his courage and devotion were required for all God accomplished through him. It was about God moving at just the right time in history through just the right man for the job. Billy is no longer in this world. But God is here. With us. He looks at each of us, just people. Like Billy. And he has a plan for our lives, as He told my friend Robbie after she saw Billy on TV. Our God is still alive. He has has not stopped caring about the malignancy of the human soul, the evil that steals our joy and confuses our life. He is working now, every minute, to draw His beloved children into His heart. He never stops doing that. He never stops moving with intention and passion to love and call us to Himself. He longs for us. He longs to enjoy relationship with us. He longs to reveal Himself and His love to every single person He created. And He created us all.

I don’t know if there will be another man who gets to preach Jesus to that many people. But I do know that God will keep moving to reach his people. He will keep calling people to pray for this nation and for the world and for their children and next door neighbors. He will continue to pour His miracles through humble and surrendered hearts–and He will continue to humble proud hearts and give them the ability to surrender to His love.

God’s plan for Billy Graham was breath-taking. Glorious. And Billy always looked right back to God to steady Him. He knew every good gift came from the Father.

God’s plan for you and me is glorious too. Maybe that’s why we’re so captivated by the news of this man who every year for 60 years was named as one of the most influential men in the world. Maybe we’re caught because Billy is simply a man. A man who dared to let God do whatever God wanted through him. Maybe we’re amazed because our heart longs to be that too. Men and women who make a God-sized difference in our human-sized experience. Most of us won’t preach to millions of people. But all of us impact our world. All of us were chosen before the foundation of the world to do the good works God planned in advance for us to do (Hebrews). All of us, like Queen Esther, are chosen for “such a time as this” for whatever God has planned for our ordinary, extraordinary lives.

I believe when we’re with our Savior face-to-face, we’ll discover that Billy learned from Him that every single soul is valuable. That there is no greater love for Billy Graham than for you and me. That our God loves no matter our status. That He will look us right in the eye, and we will know our worth to Him.

I watched a bunch of videos and read a lot of press releases, but I love this page in particular. It’s simply quotes from Billy.

Remembering the life and legacy of Billy Graham (1918-2018).
MEMORIAL.BILLYGRAHAM.ORG
Advertisements

Jesus’s Joy and Father’s Good Pleasure–YOU

Why would Jesus choose to give up the perfection of heaven to experience ridicule and horrific death?
 
Scripture says that Jesus endured the cross for the “joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2). What is that joy? The passage continues by saying that Jesus was given the place of honor when He returned to heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father.
 
My thinking used to stop there.
 
But Scripture also calls you and me Jesus’ “rich and glorious inheritance” (Ephesians 1:18, NLT) and says that we’ve been seated in the heavenlies with Jesus. There are also a lot of passages which talk about how Jesus longs for the final ceremony when His bride (us!) is presented to Him. It’s hard to believe it is true, but Jesus died, in part, because He wanted us as His inheritance. His beloved bride.
 
Then there’s Father God. What would cause a loving Father to ask such a thing of His son? Luke 12:32 tells us that it was the Father’s “good pleasure” to give the kingdom to us. Ephesians talks of the wonder of God adopting us as His very own children, allowing Jesus to pay the redemption price, to purchase us from darkness.
My friend, we are of great worth to our Creator.
Maybe you blaze past those thoughts, accepting them quickly, in the context of the unfathomable actions of the cross. You believe you are loved, treasured even, by God. Why else would God allow the cross of Christ?
 
But will you believe it tomorrow?
 
Will you believe it when life doesn’t go as you planned? When someone wounds you? When you stare at your imperfections in the mirror (on the wall or in your soul)?
 
When the vile voice of the enemy whispers of your inadequacy and failure?
 
Can you know then, way down deep, that the King of All values you? That the cross took all of the shame and inadequacy, all of the outsider-living, and placed you in the center of God’s heart? That even before the cross God chose you as the recipient of His love because you are of great worth to Him? That you are part of the royal family of heaven?
 
If you’re like me, you’ll have good days and bad days when it comes to living like royalty. But whether or not we stand tall in the noble robes our Father gave us, it doesn’t change the fact that we were bought with a price because of our worth to God. It doesn’t change that fact that His actions rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and placed us close to Him in the kingdom of light. It doesn’t change that fact that we are His beloved.
We belong with our family in the throne room.
 
This is yesterday’s introduction to the first week of devotions from Soul Scents: Selections for Easter. Maybe it seems strange to start an Easter devotional book talking about our worth to our Creator, but I believe this is one of the places most attacked by the enemy and also one of the main points of the cross. I hope you’ll join me on this journey as I share what God has shown me about our value to Him (week one) and as we look at other implications of the Cross of Christ. Selections for Easter is free on my website. Just click on gifts.

FREE Easter Devo/Catch Radio Show

27661605_10155965319319351_348329889_nDoes the cross of Jesus make a difference in daily life? How do you experience that? What does the work of the cross do beyond paying for sin and providing a ticket to heaven?

Soul Scents: Selections for Easter, which offers five weeks of devotional reading and contemplation questions for the time between Ash Wednesday and Easter, is available as a FREE PDF download at: http://paulamoldenhauer.com/gifts/ (If you prefer to read on Kindle, it is 99 cents at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079RPD9YG)

Journey deeper into the Son’s embrace this Easter! Soul Scents: Selections for Easter dives into the glorious wonder of what it really means when Jesus died, rescuing us from the shadows of living in the kingdom of darkness and moving us to a new address in the kingdom of light. It tackles such issues as spiritual freedom, identity as the beloved, living as a new creation, and the difference between cycles of saying we’re sorry and true life-giving repentance. (Adapted from the Soul Scents collection)

Also wanted to invite you to tune into Step into the Light, where I’m interviewed by Patti Shene tomorrow at 8 a.m MST. We’ll talk about some of the same concepts in Selections for Easter. I’m really excited about this and hope you’ll join us!

Until next time,

paula-another-test-401x192-2 - Copy

The Winner!! And February Contest

Congratulations to Becky who won January’s contest for A Bouquet of Brides!

51OhyGLrtxL

Becky! I’ll be in touch, and your book will arrive soon! Thank you for commenting often on January’s blog posts. I enjoyed our interactions very much!

Here are the contest details for February:

  • Every new post you comment on during the month of February gets you one chance to win. (This could be a lot of chances over the course of the month!)
  • Follow my blog during the month of February and get three chances to win
  • Sign up for my newsletter during the month of February and get five chances to win!

The contest details are a little different this month, so read them carefully! If you missed the first two blog posts this month, you’ll still be counted in the drawing if you comment on them. They are two of my favorites, talking about the inspiration for and the historical context of At Home With Daffodils, my novella in that book Becky will soon be reading!

The book to win this month is  Soul Scents: Rooted.

PMApprov2-01Become rooted in your identity as the beloved! Soul Scents: Rooted, the second book in the Soul Scents devotional series, includes topics such as worthiness, spiritual battle, and destiny. The week-day readings include scriptures and prayers.

The Soul Scents collection invites readers into an ever-deepening discovery of who God is and how He interacts with us. Combined, its four volumes, Awaken, Rooted, Bloom, and Flourish, offer a year’s worth of devotional reading. Each book has thirteen weeks of down-to-earth insight gleaned from scripture and the author’s journey into spiritual freedom.  Rest in the Son’s embrace as you enter the beautiful heart of the Freedom Giver Himself.

Thank you to all who participated in January’s contest. I had so much fun! Hope you did, too. I enjoyed seeing every new newsletter and blog sign-up, and interacting with those of you who commented here was a delight!

Until Next Time,

paula-another-test-401x192-2 - Copy

 

For the History Buff

When I originally proposed At Home with Daffodils, my story in A Bouquet of Brides, I wanted the story set in 1895 in northeastern Oklahoma. When the novella was picked up by Barbour, and I began my research in earnest, I requested permission to move the historical timeline to after Oklahoma’s statehood, which happened on November 16, 1907. I made this change because I found myself getting lost in Oklahoma’s varied history. At the time of the original date part of what is now the state of Oklahoma was Indian Territory, and part of it was Oklahoma territory.

To further confuse things, it was difficult to know just which part of Indian Territory had white people “squatting” on the land. There were many white settlements in Indian Territory, despite legal efforts to keep this from happening. Take this a step further by digging into the history of the Cherokee Nation, which settled in the area I wanted to write about, and it became very difficult to know how to handle history accurately.  Though my blond hair and green eyes might not show it, I have Cherokee and Choctaw ancestry. I wanted to write about those years with the respect due this heritage, but soon realized that kind of research and historical under-girding was too dense for a book of novella length. I was relieved when the editor at Barbour allowed me to move my story to the years right after statehood.

In At Home with Daffodils my heroine is part Cherokee. Many of us who grew up in that part of Oklahoma claim a little of that heritage, whether or not we were legally part of the tribe itself. It’s interesting to note that the nearest real town to my fictional setting is Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Tahlequah is the capitol of the Cherokee Nation. The Cherokee Supreme Court Building, located in downtown Tahlequah and constructed in 1844, is the oldest public building in Oklahoma.

Cherokee Courthouse

(Photo from: http://visitcherokeenation.com)

Though modern conveniences like the automobile and electric lighting were seen in the big city in these years (and the RMS Titanic was being fully equipped with electric lights), this type of extravagance hadn’t made its way to the back hills of northeastern Oklahoma. Thus my story has undertones of the  kind of life many of us experienced through Pa and Laura as we watched the classic TV series, Little House on the Prairie.

That’s not to say that all of northeastern Oklahoma wasn’t modern at that time. The Cherokee Female Seminary was one of the first schools of higher learning for women west of the Mississippi River. When the original building burned in 1887, it was replaced by a very modern building located in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. In 1909 the state of Oklahoma purchased it from the Cherokee Nation, and the seminary became Northeastern State Normal School. This beautiful building is still in use. I had history and English classes here when I attended Northeastern State University after high school.

1024px-Seminary_Hall

(Photo from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherokee_Female_Seminary)

It’s interesting to note that Indian Territory also boasted the first newspaper. According to http://www.visitCherokeeNation.com The Cherokee Advocate, printed in both Cherokee and English, was started in 1844.  The website further states, “Soon, the Cherokees’ education system of 144 elementary schools and two higher education institutes, the Cherokee Male and Female Seminaries, rivaled the best systems in the U.S. Many white settlements bordering Cherokee Nation took advantage of the superior school system and paid tuition to have their children attend Cherokee schools. Other bilingual materials, which had been made possible by Sequoyah’s syllabary in 1821, led Cherokees to a level of literacy higher than their white counterparts, all prior to Oklahoma statehood in 1907.”

Another example of elegance built in Indian Territory is the Murrell Home, which is the only remaining antebellum home in the state of Oklahoma.

MURRELL HOME

According to http://visitcherokeenation.com where I got this photo, “George Michael Murrell was a Virginian who married Minerva Ross, a member of a wealthy Cherokee family and niece of Chief John Ross. When the Cherokees were forced to leave their homes and move west to Indian Territory, Murrell moved with his wife’s family to the new Nation in 1839.”

I have another reason for affection for this lovely home. It was the site of a very special event in 1989.

PaulaJerryWedMurrel4

PaulaJerryWedMurrel1

I’m including the next two pictures so you can catch a broader view of the home itself, including the richer landscaping it now boast, and also so you can maybe chuckle. My outdoor wedding was interrupted by what we call an old fashioned “Oklahoma gully washer!” The umbrellas were going up about the time I was coming down the sidewalk.

PaulaJerryWedMurrel3

But it all dried up nicely by the time my groom and I headed to Tulsa for the first night of our honeymoon. We were sent on our way by a shower of birdseed.

PaulaJerryWedMurrel2

 

Though the Cherokees brought much culture and modern thinking to northeastern Oklahoma, and even though Dilly would have lived in the Edwardian era of Titanic fame, Dilly was removed from such modern living. In fact indoor plumbing didn’t come to the back hills of the area until the mid-twentieth century.

It was fun to research how my heroine, Dilly, dressed, fixed her hair, and managed daily life.

dress-timeline-191-to-1919

Dilly’s work in the general store and her life in this tiny community made a simple long black skirt, white shirtwaist, and sturdy boots more sensible.

I picture her like this:

9866cd79f28f7e48be9ea51f812d52d6--teenage-girls-young-girls

(photo found on Pinterest)

You can learn more about the history in northeastern Oklahoma by reading At Home with Daffodils.

51OhyGLrtxL

And now, for the winner of A Bouquet of Brides! 

I gotta tell ya, I really enjoyed sharing this month with you. Thank you for engaging with me, leaving comments, following this blog, and signing up for my newsletter. I hope you’ll continue to stick around this February. I’m planning two series. The first is “Lessons from a Heart Attack,” where I’ll share things Jerry and I processed in January as he recovered from his December 31st heart attack.

God’s gracious intervention saved my husband’s life, and an incident like that makes you dig a little deeper. I haven’t talked much about it here, but January’s challenges were stretching–and you learn from that stuff.

The other series is, “Keeping a Spiritual Journal,” a series requested by one of my Soul Scents readers. In honor of this series, the giveaway this month will be a Soul Scents book of your choice.

And the winner of A Bouquet of Brides Collection is . . .

Congratulations!!

Until next time,

paula-another-test-401x192-2 - Copy

How is a Book Conceived?

Ever wonder how an author thinks up stories? It can be anything, really, that becomes what I call the story seed. Yesterday you got some sneak peeks into the inspiration for my novella, At Home with Daffodils. Today’s posts gives the rest of the story.

On that warm summer’s day when my husband, two youngest sons, my dad, and I drove through Camp Gruber, stopping to swim in the creek when I swam as a child, I had no idea a story was about to be seeded into my heart.

It happened after we drove on through the camp, coming out the other side to discover the quaint little building I talked about yesterday. Dad suggested we stop for lunch. (Don’t mind my hair in these pictures. Remember, I’d just enjoyed an unplanned dip in Greenleaf Creek.)

18.jpg

Located on Qualls Road in Parkhill, Oklahoma, Jincy’s Kitchen is housed in what was once the general store for the old Qualls community. (As I mentioned yesterday, the site was used for the filming of the movie, “Where the Red Fern Grows.”) The old building still has the wooden cubed walls that once held merchandise. Now it contains memorabilia—antique dishes and newspaper clippings of folks important to the area.

20150718_130034

20150718_125935

We ordered—and enjoyed—our home-cooked meal.

7

Debbie Rucker, the proprietor and cook, left her stove to share the store’s history. The store was opened many years before by her grandmother, a single mom. The building was passed down to Debbie, and she opens the restaurant on weekends to keep the spirit of the Qualls community alive for the next generation.

 

I commented on the french fries. I hadn’t had homemade fries like that since my grandmother made them for me many years before. My husband said, “Yes. The fries were just like Grandma Eunice’s weren’t they?”

Debbie whipped toward me, “You’re Aunt Eunice’s granddaughter?” She explained that she had been married to my grandma’s nephew. Then the stories began in earnest. She said my grandparents were well-loved in the Qualls community; everyone had a story of a time Grandpa or Grandma helped them out. Then Debbie began to tell her special story. It was about her daddy and my grandpa. How I treasure this story!

You’ll read a similar version in chapter one of At Home with Daffodils. I won’t spoil it for you by sharing it here, but I find great joy in honoring my grandpa by creating a fictionalized account of the event.

I dedicated this novella to my grandpa. Maybe you’ll enjoy reading the dedication:

For Grandpa Curtis

Whose grave lies just outside Camp Gruber

Near the old general store at Qualls

You were the master storyteller

No doubt the hours I spent mesmerized by your stories

Influenced my decision to become a writer

I look forward to sitting on a front porch swing

(if they have them in heaven)

With you and Jesus

No doubt He’ll chuckle as Grandma whispers,

“I wouldn’t tell that one if I was you!”

Until next time,

paula-another-test-401x192-2 - Copy

PS We’re almost to the end of our celebration of the release month for A Bouquet of Brides. As you know if you’ve visited here this month, I’m giving away a copy of the book. The contest ended on January 31st, and I’ll announce the lucky winner on Friday!

Just Where is Rock City

Just where is Rock City anyway? Today’s behind the scenes post is about the setting of my latest release.

Rock City, the fictional setting for At Home with Daffodils, my story in A Bouquet of Brides, is a made up town, but in my mind’s eye I saw the rolling hills around Parkhill, Oklahoma as I wrote. These are the same hills I roamed as a girl. I specifically picture the old general store in Qualls, Oklahoma, the same store used in the movie, Where the Red Fern Grows.

I couldn’t resist naming some of my characters and landmarks with the names of real people and places from the area. (For example the old store in the picture below is near Camp Gruber. Recognize the name? My hero, Jace Gruber, came by it honestly.) I hope my friends and family back home will enjoy those nods to the actual location and real people I knew as they read.

This picture shows my two youngest sons, Stephen and Sam, standing with yours truly in front of the country store, now a weekend restaurant called Jincy’s Kitchen.

20150718_142116

The picture below was taken during a drive through Camp Gruber. The boys couldn’t resist a quick dip in the simmin’ hole of my childhood, at “the slab.”

4

I watched them for a while then the little girl in me couldn’t resist the opportunity to revisit one of my favorite childhood memories.

20150718_112532 - Copy

I grabbed my suit and jumped in. I even tried the rope swing off the side of the bluff. When I surfaced, I yelled, “It wasn’t pretty, but it was safe!” (I let go much sooner than intended. It’s been a few years!)

3.jpg

When I was invited to dream up a story with the heroine named after a flower, an idea immediately surfaced (more tomorrow on that) that would be set in the hills of my childhood. And if I was writing about that area, the flower had to be a daffodil. Thus Daffodil “Dilly” Grace Douglas was conceived in my mind.

Down the road from the farmhouse where I lived in northeastern Oklahoma was an old home place. You couldn’t see the building anymore, but you could see a field of daffodils (we called them jonquils) that someone planted years before. The picture below wasn’t actually taken there, but is similar to what I remember.

daffodils

 

Every spring each year I eagerly awaited their arrival, as I did the tiny spring bluets and Virginia spring beauties that also grew in the area. After I moved to Colorado, my grandmother sent me the tiny flowers in February. She wrapped them in a damp paper towel, covered with plastic. She also sent jonquil bulbs, and so I have cheery yellow faces transplanted from Oklahoma that bloom every spring in my yard.

I hope you’ll enjoy At Home with Daffodils, set in the rolling hills of my childhood. The country is beautiful, the culture engaging, and the generous people are salt-of-the-earth. The best thing I received from those years living in the hills of northeastern Oklahoma is a relationship with Jesus. He is indeed the one who removes our shame and finishes the good work He begins in us—no matter how flawed we believe ourselves or our pasts to be.

Blessings,

paula-another-test-401x192-2 - Copy

PS We’re almost to the end of our celebration of the release month for A Bouquet of Brides. As you know if you’ve visited here this month, I’m giving away a copy of the book. Enter the drawing by signing-up for my newsletter or leaving a comment on my blog during the month of January (USA readers only). Each comment on a new post means another chance to win! (If you’re new to me, check out my website, where I have free resources and information about the Free to Flourish writing and speaking ministry.) The contest ends TODAY, and I’ll announce the lucky winner on Friday!