Tag Archive: Billy Graham


Two weeks ago the Bluffton Book Festival held its annual fair.  Does anybody remember what a book is anymore?  Just kidding.  E-books are a great way to build a library without the cost and cramped conditions.  Being a bit old-school, I admit I love to have the book in my hands and turn the pages one-by-one.  

This year I had the opportunity to attend the V.I.P. book signing event the night before the Festival.  A very good friend provided the tickets.  We got to hear from a few of the authors.  While the festival focuses on local authors, we had the opportunity to meet a few of the invited premier guest authors.  They also signed books for the attendees.  While a lot of attention was on Misty Copeland, the first African-American woman to be promoted to principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre, I was interested in Kenny Leon, a Tony award winning director.  He wrote the book, Take You Wherever You Go.  It is his memoirs, focusing on the main influences in his life.  He is quite intriguing and winsome.

I just finished the book.  It got me thinking.  Who were the main influences in my life?  What stories would I tell about them?  What wisdom have they imparted in my life, even though I have not achieved the recognition and prestige of a Misty Copeland or Kenny Leon?  Who are the people who have made me who I am today?  

Sometimes we think about the negative influences in our lives.  The unique feature of Leon’s book is the lack of negative influences.  We all have them.   I’m sure he did as well.  However, Leon made the point that all the influences and experiences in his life molded him to be the person he is.  

In the Christian faith we would take such a thought and relate it to the will of God bringing people in and out of our lives.  Therefore, who we are has been shaped by God.  His son, Jesus, has God accepting who we are, as we are, by his grace.  Too bad people can’t get that one.

Leon’s grandmother was the influence for the book and its title.  She loved her grandson enough to inspire him to be who he was instead of trying so hard to be someone he was not.  Often, when we try to be someone else we fall flat on our face.

As I read his book, I again was brought back to the nature of God’s grace and how much we need to grow in that grace.  The influence of Western Culture has our mindset directed to being the best at whatever we do.  There lives a “got to be first” mentality that often fails to celebrate those who don’t fail but rather finish just a few steps behind.  The difference in a race is fractions of seconds.  The difference in a baseball game is often found in the numbers “1” and “2.”  Move into other life situations and the difference is one choice or one chance meeting.  Yet, all we tend to do is honor 1st place and forget all the others.  

The gospel of Jesus Christ does quite the opposite.  It welcomes in those who would never win a race, hit a homerun, score a touchdown, write a book, or even be in position to take a leading role.  That’s what really attracts me to Jesus.

All other religions I have studied say man has to ante up.  Our only chance of redemption is to do better, be better, and so on.  Some institute strict guidelines and rituals.  Deviate one hair from them and you will not be in God’s favor.

Jesus welcomes all the other’s in.  Why?  Man is and always will be incapable of reaching the standard of “holy.”  We will always fall a little short.  In fact, if we were honest, man will always fall way short.  

If Jesus accepts me as I am and fills in the gaps, why can’t we accept those around us?  I loved Leon’s book.  I’m not Billy Graham and never will be.  I’m not anybody in the Bible.  I’m John Ring and you are who you are, formed by the many influences in your life.  My hope is not in being anybody different.  My hope is in Jesus.  

How do we then live?  With grace.  Always with grace.  I am and always will be the prodigal son.  I will always fall short of the glory of God.  My only hope is in the One who gave His life so that I may live.  So, you might not like what you see.  If you ever hang with me, you will discover my shortcomings, and they will add up.  All I ask is that you see me through the eyes of Jesus because, no matter what, as Leon’s grandmother said, “Take You Wherever You Go.”  

By the way, that person that’s getting under your skin,  he is taking himself wherever he goes as well.  Go in grace. 

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He sat at the desk and called for his wife. She did not respond. That’s funny. She would always answer him with her squeaky voice. He walked out of his office and peaked in the kitchen. No wife to be found. He wandered from room to room wondering where she could be. Eventually he stopped and listened for her. It was deafly quiet. Maybe she went shopping and he forgot. He was getting up there in age. He looked in the garage. Nope, both cars were in the garage. As he turned to go back into the mud room he noticed the lack of her laundry. He was jolted from his denial. She was not in the garage. She was not in the house. His petite wife with the squeaky voice had succumbed to cancer a few weeks ago. He was alone for the first time in 48 years. His emotions got the best of him as the silence of loneliness penetrated his soul.
Meanwhile, the young girl sat in the counselors office telling her story. Her day started at 5:30 a.m. and finished at 10:30 p.m. with cheerleading and volleyball sandwiching her myriad of classes. She was active at school. She was active at church. She was constantly around friends, classmates and her bothersome little brothers. Something was wrong. Her parents sent her into the office since they couldn’t figure out her moods. As she laid out her complex days tears welled up in her big brown eyes. Her head drooped a bit. Her next words shattered the momentary silence, “I’m all alone. Nobody knows me.” “Impossible” the perplexed counselor replied. “You’re wrong” she insisted. “ I’m so busy I don’t have time for anybody and they don’t really have time for me.” Alone in a sea of humanity.
The 3rd account involved a young adult as sat eating her pasta explaining her guilt ridden Christian family. She had no one talk to. Her mom would have none of her deep and often troubled thoughts. Her dad, let’s just say he was a typical dad. Her brothers and sisters were driven by her parents desire for success. They had no time to hear her heart. All that mattered in her family was money. She was uncomfortable talking to her uncle. He sensed she needed some help. He asked her if she would like to have a lady to talk to. She immediately answered with a first time smile, “Yes, I really would.” He only knew of one lady who had a heart for teenagers. She was 82 years old. As he stammered though the idea of hooking her up with an 82 year old grandmother of seven she shocked him. With tears in her eyes as well she reminded him of the key value, “I don’t care how old they are, all that matters to me is will they love me.” He picked up the phone and made a quick call. She was suffering from the sounds of silence in a world of noise.
The last lonely traveler made a lot of mistakes in his life. His journey hurt a lot of people. His wife left years ago and the kids don’t care to see him. He somehow knows he has grandkids but has never seen them. He sat with his wine and his cats with no one around staring blankly as the television ran reruns over and over. He picked up the phone for the eighth time today. Nobody answered. He even was blocked by his last friend. His lonely drunken stupor made him forget the time. His multiple attempts to reach his old friend violated the man’s family time. His thirst to hear someone’s voice was greater then his thirst for another glass of alcohol. The only problem is he had worn out his welcome. HIs drunken ramblings ends every friendship he had. He couldn’t stop picking up the phone at 4 a.m., 1 p.m., 6 p.m., 9 p.m. and again at 1 a.m. only to hear the endless rings. He heard the words of the Simon and Garfunkel classic…”Hello darkness my old friend.”
All these stories are true. Every one of these individuals had at one time attended church. They sat in the pews. They smiled when they needed to. When asked how they were doing they responded with American triteness, “I’m o.k., you?” No use telling them the truth. They really didn’t care.
There was a guy in the book of Acts who was in the same boat. Saul, a somewhat new believer in Jesus Christ had lost his old friends. In fact, they wanted to kill him. His new relationships did not trust him. He caused them a lot of pain and suffering. He was alone. If a guy by the name of Barnabas had not stepped up and basically said, “I got your back, let’s get going,” the story of Paul, the apostle would have possibly ended right there.
Loneliness is killing the gospel in our lives. Loneliness caused by death, busyness, flawed priorities and sin has become one of the greatest tools of the unholy trinity (the world, flesh and the devil) in a culture that deceives with it’s social media and technology. It’s the heart that is at stake. The future of Christianity is not who will be the next Billy Graham. The question is who will be a Barnabas?