What were two 20 year olds living together–doing in the first place–watching a Billy Graham Crusade? It was March 1974.
I want to take you back in time to the1960s and 1970s. It was the Vietnam War Era. It was the Hippie Era, the Flower Child, the Wild Child times. Hair was long. Tie-dyed shirts were in. Big bell bottomed pants that hung way below the waist along with barefoot-sandals was in. Psychedelic drugs and bright colored psychedelic art abounded. VW-Volkswagen Beetle Bugs and Vans were painted with big daisies and hearts…the brighter the colors the better. The Beatles’ song, “All you need is love” was the mantra of the times and the word “love” had a very loose (literally loose) interpretation.
I came from a broken family (mom and dad divorced) and being raised in a broke-home with my mom and us four kids…had an impact on me. I didn’t relate to my hippie generation. I had experienced what it was like not to have…food…on…the…table. Yeah, I wanted nice stuff and lots of it.
In 1973, I still lived at home with my mom and two younger sisters. We lived in San Diego, California. My brother had left home right after high school graduation in 1970; he joined the Navy to avoid being drafted. Many of the young men did the same thing back then.
When I met Gary in June 1973, he lived in downtown San Diego in a high rise luxury apartment building, drove a fancy car, and wore suits and ties. He had a good job as the manager of the Beltone Hearing Aid office not too far from where he lived.
The first time I met Gary was at his office. I had dressed professionally, my long, straight hair hanging beautifully down my back, and I confidently walked into the Beltone office for a job. Gary interviewed me and I was hired. Both of us being––misfits in our generation––being successful was one of the things that drew us together. We wanted the stuff. We were Yuppies before the word was coined. We liked each other right away.
Our first date was July 4, 1973. We went to Tijuana, Mexico to party…mostly because I wouldn’t pass for the legal drinking age in California.
September 1973, just two months after Gary and I met, he had the opportunity to purchase the Beltone office in Bakersfield, California. Gary was born and raised in Bakersfield and jumped at this opportunity. He asked me if I wanted to move with him; move…in…with…him. I said, “Yes”.
I told my mom and sisters bye, and Gary and I moved to Bakersfield. Gary purchased an apartment building in Bakersfield and we moved into the first floor unit and settled into life.
Then six months later…
In March 1974, Gary and I had the television on and for some odd reason we were watching a Billy Graham Crusade. Sitting in the livingroom next to Gary, listening to Billy Graham talk––and although I don’t remember exactly what he said I’m sure it went something like this because this is what Billy Graham always preaches, “God loves you. He has a plan for your life. You’re separated from God by sin…” I didn’t know exactly what to do. Neither Gary or I were raised in a Christian home.
I wanted God. And I realized that living with Gary was wrong. I was sobbing as I told him I wanted to move out. As I continued crying, Gary called his mom, who lived in Bakersfield not far from us, and told her what was going on.
To make a long story short…his mom told me, “Rhonda, don’t move out, just get married.”
So, Gary and I got married because of a Billy Graham Crusade. It was May 26, 1974 at the age of 20 that Gary and I married.
My precious mother-in-law, Jean, loved me like a daughter. She took care of most of the details for our wedding, even helped me pick out my dress and flowers. Sweet memories. Very sadly, she died of cancer five months later.
Gary has his own story to share about what life was like growing up. Unlike me, Gary had lots of stuff. His dad was wealthy. However, what went on behind closed doors in their home was violent. Gary’s dad would throw things, scream and yell, and beat his mom. At times, she would end up in the hospital with black eyes and broken bones. She’d say, “I fell down the stairs” or some other excuse. Gary’s mom finally left his dad and they divorced.
Gary and I brought the hurts, the baggage, the dysfunction from our childhood into our marriage. Plus we bought into the lie that all…that…stuff would make us happy, would make us fulfilled. Guess what we found out? All the world’s stuff doesn’t fill that empty place inside of us.
What a let down!
It’s no wonder that by 1978 Gary and I were headed for divorce.
There we were, on the verge of divorce for some odd reason Gary said to me, “Rhonda, when I was growing up I always liked to watch Billy Graham on TV.”
Gary and I were saved because of a comment Billy Graham always says at the end of his messages.
“At the end of his message Billy Graham would look straight into the TV camera and say, ‘Be sure and go to church next Sunday’ Rhonda, let’s try church.” And we did. We did go to church. God saved not only our marriage but our souls. God changed the course of Gary and my lives, and the lives of our children, and grandchildren. To God be all the glory and honor for His goodness to me and my family. You can read our Salvation Story click here.
Sharing our testimony––our God-Story––can impact people’s lives. It can impact our loved ones’ lives. It can impact our children’s lives. I know I need to open up and share my God-Story more––not that I’m proud of it and not because of what I’ve done––but because of what my Almighty God has done. God has turned my history into His Story, my GOD-STORY! Thank You, my Lord and Savior, Jesus!
Something else we can do that has an impact on our loved ones is our prayers. In James 5:16b it reads, “The prayer of a righteous person (mom/dad) is powerful and effective.”
To the left is this month’s Precious In HIS Sight Scripture Prayer Calendar. Click on the Calendar and it enlarges in a separate window so you can read the daily scriptures references easily. I turn the verses into scripture prayers for my family. Through the years, the Calendar has helped me faithfully pray God’s Word over my loved ones. I print the Calendar and keep it with my Bible. Feel free to print the Calendar too. Also, I write on my Calendar specific “stuff” going on in our lives. Needs. Requests. Concerns. It helps me be specific with my prayers.
My dear friend Marva Gehm made this month’s Calendar. Thank you, Marva. Please continue praying for Marva as she battles breast cancer. I know Marva and her family would appreciate your prayers very much.
Billy Graham (November 7, 1918-February 21, 2018) finally met the God he had faithfully served for over 60 years. Millions of people have their own stories of the impact Billy Graham and his ministry has had on their lives. And so do Gary and I. Who would have thought that watching that Billy Graham Crusade 44 years ago would make such a big difference in our lives?
That evening I was reflecting on Billy Graham’s life I started singing that song, “Just as I am”. It’s the song that was always sung at the end of the Billy Graham Crusades. A new song came into my mind and into my heart. I took out my journal and began to write the words. My new song is really the simple Gospel that Billy Graham shared every time he preached. This is that page from my journal (click on my journal page if the words are not clear).
Our God-Story is not JUST one decision, in one moment, one day. Our God-Story continues in all the moments, in all the days that God gives us breath…as we run our God-Race. The Apostle Paul wrote, “press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:14). May we run the race with endurance keeping our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, for our God-Race impacts other people who are watching us and encourages them to run their God-Race.
Dear Abba Father, I thank you for the “for some odd reason” experiences that You ordain in our lives and the way You use people to impact us––TO SEE YOU! Bless each person who in the past has encouraged me…and bless each person in the present, now, who encourages me today to run my God-Race in a way worthy of Your calling. Help our lives count for eternity…for the only “things” we can take to heaven with us, are the people You touch as we run our God-Race. In Jesus Name I pray, AMEN.