Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A Precious Mug Exchange, Filled and Lavished Abuntantly With Grace

"For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ."
Romans 5:17

My Saturday didn't start out in the best of ways.
I had been fighting sickness all week, and finally Saturday morning found me extremely ill.
Imagine the uplift to my spirits when I went to the post office and found a package waiting there!
Not just any package, mind you, but one that was decorated so beautifully, 
with a return name and address that I recognized immediately.
It was from our own dear Stephanie, the one who so faithfully puts this amazing Tea Cup & Mug Exchange together for all of us twice a year!

My joy was full, even before I opened the box!!
The lovely embellishments found on the outside filled my heart with hope and anticipation as to what was waiting when I peeked inside!!!
I could hardly wait to get back home and open it all up with Kevin and Zach!
Imagine the oohs and ahhs, right after Kevin cut through the tape to find all of this!!

Not only were there lots and lots and LOTS of precious gifts, 
but the wrapping!
OH, the wrapping!!
I didn't want to tear into them...they were so beautifully done.
The wrapping alone was a gift all its own!!

My favorite color in the world is lavender, and pink is a close second, so you can just imagine the excitement I felt as I gently lifted each carefully, thoughtfully wrapped gift from the box.

Dear Stephanie!!
You will never know how much you blessed me or how much you made my day!!
How can I ever thank you enough?

This, dear friends, is what I found tucked inside the box.

Two beautifully-scented gifts handmade by Stephanie's own loving hands.
Aren't they the prettiest things?

.An amazing bar of evergreen lavender soap!
(Can I just tell you how much I love soap???  I think I have an obsession....how did you know, sweet friend?)

The sweetest, most dainty, little lavender bowl I have ever seen!

I immediately thought how beautiful the soap would look nesting in it...
just look!

I cannot get enough of this little bowl.
I could sit and swoon over it for hours!

Just look at how pretty it looks grouped together with these lovelies....

I'm telling you, this bowl just calls to me....was made for me....I have no doubt. 
I want to linger, but since there is so much more to share, I must move on...

These are the most darling note cards!
I love sending a card to brighten someone else's day...these are so colorful and perfect!

Then, I found the most adorable journal, with a sweet, little bird on the front.
Isn't he gorgeous?

Don't the journal and the note cards look so pretty sitting side by side?
Like they were sort of made to be friends....

And, some darling sticker embellishments to add brightness and beauty to any crafting project...

And, a precious little card with the most meaningful, kind message from Stephanie written inside...

And, guess what was hiding in yet another card tucked inside the bouquet card?
Oh, my, I am just SO excited!!!

An abundantly generous Starbucks gift card!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Venti Iced Decaf Cafe Americano with extra cream and 2 packs of honey, here I come!!!!
I can't wait!

As I kept unwrapping, (I tell you, it felt like Christmas to me.
I felt SO special, SO loved, SO pampered....
my whole day brightened up in such an amazing way!),
I found this!!!!!!

Saved by grace, indeed!
I LOVE this mug!!!
It is a nice size and will hold a large portion of coffee or my homemade hot cocoa!!
(Milk, cocoa powder, and honey, to taste, heated on the stove in a sauce pan.  It is SO good!!!)
I can just picture steam rising from this beautiful mug, as I ponder on the grace of our Savior!

I kept digging deeper into the box, and just look at what I found!!!!!!!
A beautiful coloring book, chock full of Scripture elements and oh, such lovely, pictures to color!

Here's the back...can you read it?

I love to color!
I find it so therapeutic and stress-relieving.
Oh, the hours dear Zach and I have spent at the kitchen table coloring together in his coloring books!
Then, a few months ago, my dear sister, Sandi, sent me my very first adult coloring book & pencils.
I have SO enjoyed using it...and now, I have another one to choose from!
I am so abundantly blessed.

Sweet Stephanie thought of everything.
She included some beautiful colored pencils, too!

I love the name of the coloring book...a garland of grace!
Isn't that God enshrouds each of us in?

"Grace, grace, God's grace, Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God's grace, Grace that is greater than all our sin!"
Written by Julia H. Johnston

Where would be without His grace?
After serving Jesus for many years, I think I am only beginning to catch a glimpse of the true meaning of GRACE.
Oh, I do praise Him!!!!

I will think of God's grace...and dear Stephanie, such a living, breathing example of grace,
 each time I use this book, drink from this mug, and use the many precious gifts she sent to me.

And, now, for a group photo of my amazing, wonderful goodies, sent with so much love (you could FEEL the love while opening the box and gifts) from one of the sweetest ladies I know.

It could not have arrived at a more opportune time.
To God be the glory for such lovely, encouraging, caring friends and for the way He so graciously connects us through this blogging world.
My life is so much richer by being a part of it.

Again, I thank you, dear Stephanie from the bottom of my heart!

To all of you precious readers, if you have never participated in Stephanie's tea cup and mug exchange, you truly do not know what you are missing!
This is my third time participating, and it has just been a huge encouragement to me.
I SO look forward to it, and I cannot even imagine how much energy and time Stephanie pours into it.
Perhaps you have never met Stephanie or visited her blog?
If you haven't, please stop by and say hello to her, 
and while you are there, why not consider following, so you won't miss any of her wonderful posts?
She also has an Etsy Shop called Rose Petal Blessings that is just amazing!!!
I have ordered from her multiple times, and her work is unique and impeccable.
I often tell her that her creations should be sold in stores.
You can see and feel how much love she pours into every, single thing she does.
I hope you will stop by and visit her!!

"Thank You, dear Jesus, for all of your abundant gifts.
Thank You for such amazing friends.
Thank You for suffering such an awful scourging to obtain the stripes needed for our healing.
You, dear Lord, mean everything to me.
In Jesus' name, Amen."

To read about the other two tea cup and mug exchanges I have participated in, click these links:

If video doesn't load, click here.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Praise & Update on Kristen

"He is not here: for He is risen, as He said. 
Come, see the place where the Lord lay."
Matthew 28:6

Come, and see, indeed!!
The tomb is empty!!
Praise God forevermore!

He is alive, and, because of Him and His resurrection power, death will never win the war!!

This Easter Sunday morning, I have never loved Him more.
He becomes more alive...more real...more precious to my soul with each passing day.


I apologize for my absence on the blog lately.

God has given me an exacting assignment that is requiring every bit of my creative time and energy.
It is requiring me to press hard into prayer and moments with Jesus for much needed inspiration and help.

I have never felt more dependent upon Him or more in need of His Divine in-pouring into this very incapable vessel of clay.

"I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing."
John 15:5

Without Him, all effort is vain.
I feel that and sense it more than ever before.

"For in Him we live, and move, and have our being..."
Acts 17:28

"Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it..."
Psalm 127:1

(Lord willing, you will see a blog post or an interview, here and there, so please do always stop by for visits!  Thanks for not giving up on me!)


Please also keep praying for my dear niece, Kristen.
The dear girl has been through SO much.
There have been so many bumps and trials, and the fear of what is ahead of her is ever present.
Oh, we do appreciate the many prayers each one of you have prayed!
We just have no words to thank you enough.
PLEASE continue to pray and ask the dear Lord to grant wisdom to her doctors as to the timing of the switch in medicines before she gives birth.
There is great concern about the life and health of both her and her unborn baby boy.
My hope and faith is in God alone and in the knowledge that He is in control and that He holds both of them in His loving hands.

HAPPY EASTER to all of you, dear friends!
He is risen!!
Let us rejoice!!!!!

If video doesn't load, click here.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Inner Views of Betty Draper

"For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified."
I Corinthians 2:2
(Betty's life verse)

The words of the dear lady I am interviewing today brought me to tears.
I am moved by her devotion to our Lord, to her husband, and to the people she has served through the years.
I am touched by the way she and her husband have labored long together, hand in hand, to promote God's cause and to spread Jesus' love.
I am challenged by the sacrifices they have made and the selfless way they have laid down their lives.
When I think of the two of them, I think of these words in Luke 10:2, spoken from the heart of Jesus that yearned for dedicated followers who would be willing to spread His Gospel,
"Therefore said He unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He would send forth labourers into His harvest."

I think the part of her interview that touched me most was this...
"We both wish we had another life to give."
Oh, for consecrated workers such as the sweet couple in the picture below!

Ace and Betty Draper

With joy and gratitude, I present to you the
of Wife for 52 years, Mother of Two, and Grandmother of Six,
Betty Draper.

Cheryl: Please tell us about yourself.

Betty:  I did not grow up in a Christian home.  In fact I heard the name God a lot, but it had another word attached to it.  My Dad was a drunk, a mean drunk, whose favorite word for me and my brothers was, “pitiful”. My mother tried as best she could, but being abused, too, by my Dad was just a way of life for her.  It took her 25 years to finally leave him.  During those years, I formed some pretty strong opinions toward men, such as, if my husband, or any man for that matter, ever hits me in any way, he better make sure I do not get up, because I would use whatever I could to stop him from abusing me.  My survivor heart developed early in life.

Cheryl: We would love to hear about how you met your husband, your love story, and how you knew he was the man God wanted you to marry?

Betty:  Again, this part is not pretty.  We met when we were 15, married at 17.  I think we loved each other as best that any 17 year old could, but we both came from broken homes, both thought getting married was a way out.  We both were mature in making a living, but so immature emotionally, which showed up pretty soon after we got married.  He was a drinker, not an abusive man, thank God, but our first 12 years of marriage was a total disaster.  We separated three times, not knowing what else to do, and were not mature enough to seek help.  It was not a Christian story book love.

Cheryl: When did you become a Christian?

Betty:  My husband, Ace, got saved at 13 through a faithful Sunday school teacher who invited him to a revival at her church.  That night, he understood he was a sinner in need of a Savior, and Jesus was the only One who could save him.  For a little while he stayed in church, but the lure of a good job in the oil fields, working on an oil rig got in the way.  He quit school at 15 for this job which only drove him deeper into the pit, working with some pretty rough men.  We met about that time and got married at 17.  During those first 12 years of marriage, I had six miscarriages.  Life changed a lot in those 12 years, we moved three different times, each time to another state, and we ended up in Louisville, KY.  Our marriage was still a mess.  There, I had our first child, a girl.  Feeling her move inside of me made me wonder what happened to those six I had lost.  So I bought an NIV Bible to seek an answer.  It took 4 years of reading, another miscarriage, and a little boy before I found the answer.

Here is when the true love story started.  God sent His people from a local church that had the boldness to ask me about my soul before they even invited me to church.  I had a hard heart, because to survive all the heartache you must build a wall around your heart.  But losing those babies gave me a reason to seek Him, and, of course, He was just waiting for me.  We attended that church, my husband rededicated his life to Christ, and I got saved the following Sunday. We had had a lot of changes in our life, but this change brought a journey we never expected.

Cheryl: Can you share with us about the moment you felt called to full-time Christian service? How did God make your calling evident to you? Please tell us about your missionary work.

Betty:  The church we attended was an independent Baptist, and our pastor had missionaries in all the time.  By this time, we had attended a Bible Institute that our church had, and we were full time in ministry at our church by then.  Unbelievable… Us…Ace and I from such dysfunctional homes working with youth.  God certainly has a way of showing the world how much He can change a life.  One Sunday, a widowed missionary lady, about 50, spoke at our church.  She was with New Tribes Mission and was teaching literacy in a village on an island in the Philippines.  My husband was sick that day, and as I watched her slides and heard her words, I felt like God had sat those people all around me, and said, "Betty, what are you going to do about them?"  It shook me to my core, and I asked her to come with me and show her slides to my husband.  It shook him, too.  We passed at least five Gospel-preaching churches on the way to our church, and to find out there were people tucked in remote places that had not heard the Gospel broke our hearts.  The first thing God asked me to do was to support this missionary, Nada Price, who, by the way, just passed away at 93.  I used to imagine us flying into her tribe in one of those single-engine planes and saying, "Here we are, Nada, what can we do to help you?"

When Ace told me he thought God wanted us to go into full time foreign mission work, God had my heart ready, and I just said, "Ok, let’s go."  We applied to New Tribes Missions, shocked that they took us.  During our training, people kept saying, "You guys would make great dorm parents", but we wanted to go to a tribe.  The last phase of training is Language School, where we found out we would not be good at learning an unwritten language.  So we were asked to go to Bolivia, South America to be dorm parents.  I loved the idea, but Ace was a little hesitant.  I mean, we really did not have the good upbringing to draw from.  What we learned was, God needed willing hearts, not good upbringing to do His job.  Our children were 10th grade and 7th grade when we arrived in Bolivia.  Long story short, we loved being dorm parents to high school guys, loved it.  We spent 7 years in Bolivia, returned home for a short furlough, since our son had graduated, and our pastor asked us to stay back and help him at the local church, as it was struggling.  Another long story short, we stepped out of New Tribes, and, for two years, helped in the huge Christian school they had.  God begin to work on our hearts to go back overseas with New Tribes and the door was open so we once again stepped through it.  We were asked to go to Papua, New Guinea and help in a new region. Ace would do administration; I would be hostess when the missionaries came out of the jungle for whatever reason.  I loved doing that.  Bolivia was a third world country, but PNG was a 5th world country.  So primitive, undeveloped, and so in need of hearing the Gospel because the ruggedness of it kept people away.  We loved what we did there, too, and spent 7 years helping in the Madang region, doing things so out of our comfort zone.  We returned to the states in 2012, knowing our overseas days were over, due to Ace's heart health.  Our mission asked us to become Member Care reps for six southwest states, which is exactly what we do now and love it.  All those years, two countries, tons of different experiences, lots of hard and good times is exactly what helps us when we sit down with a young couple just home from the field.  One young missionary wife put it into perspective for us when she said, "We did not have to explain anything to you.  You got everything we said."

I could go on and on, with story after story, but know this.  No matter how hard it got, we do not regret one minute spent over seas or here in the states serving Him.

Cheryl: Define one of the darkest periods of your life, thus far. How did you remain encouraged in your Christian walk during this time?

Betty:  One of darkest times was making the decision to not go back to Bolivia, staying home to help our home church, and coming home in 2012, not knowing what God had for us.  It’s good to have some years of walking in faith behind you because you can draw from a well that never runs dry.  We are thankful to have the written Word, good, Godly friends to help us, and each other.  Our marriage may have been a shambles way back, but God has enforced His wisdom, insight, and love into our lives.  Do we love each other more?  No…but we love each other differently.  With God’s love, it has stood the test of time.

Cheryl: Who has influenced you most in your walk with Jesus? What about that person did/do you most admire?

Betty:  My pastor's wife influenced me greatly in how to be a Godly woman, how to dress, how to speak, how to act in hard times, how to have fun the right way.  She gave me a good foundation that I built my faith on.  Through her, I learned that nothing could separate me from the love of God, in the present and in the future.  Also, I would have to say, every missionary I met influenced me and still does.  We know the sacrifice it takes to leave family and the comfort of a good country, so every young couple we sit down with, our hearts want to go help them.  It’s our aging bodies that can’t; but our hearts sure want to.

Cheryl:  If you could go back and relive any portion of your life, what would it be? Why?

Betty:  My teen years, I would relive, if I could.  I don’t dwell on the mistakes I made because God uses everything about us, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  But I had opportunities to get saved, I went to many churches, but I think my survival heart thought I could survive Hell.  I mean, living in my house was Hell in my mind, and I survived that.  In fact, when people would talk to me about Hell, I would say, "Let me tell you about Hell", and on I would go about what I grew up in.

Cheryl:  What is the best piece of marital advice you were ever given? How has it helped you in your own marriage? If you were sitting down with a young couple who are soon to be married, what is the first thing you would tell them?

Betty:  Best piece of marital advice ever given to me was to wait upon the Lord.  There have been times I so did not agree with my husband, but waiting on the Lord, I trusted Him to either change his mind or mine.  I just recently had a wife come to me and ask me how to handle her husband, who was putting off making a decision he needed to make.  I said, "Just wait on the Lord.  It’s His job, not yours, to work on your husband's heart."  She did, and he made a decision, a good one, too, that affected their life for good.  I love the fact that Scripture does not just say, “Wait on the Lord”.  It also says, "Wait upon."  To wait upon is to serve, and my ministry, as I was waiting on God in our marriage, was to wait upon my husband.

Cheryl:  Please share with us about New Tribes Mission. What is it? How long have you been a part of it?

Betty:  New Tribes Mission works among people groups who have had little or no access to the Bible, mostly in remote locations in Africa, Latin America, and the Asia-Pacific Region.  While providing practical help, such as medical care, community development, and literacy education, missionaries share Bible lessons that allow the people to choose for themselves whether to believe on Jesus Christ and follow Him.  It’s an organization that helps local churches send out missionaries.  Their headquarters are located in Sanford, Florida.  We joined in 1989, so altogether, we have been a part of New Tribes Mission for 28 years, with those two years helping our church.

Cheryl: How much time have you spent overseas as a missionary?

Betty:  Actually, overseas was 14 years.  We were in our 40's when we joined New Tribes.  We both wish we had another life to give.

Cheryl:  Your comments after reading some of my posts concerning my family's and my minimizing journey have been encouraging and inspiring to me.  Will you please share your perspectives and experiences in minimizing in your own life?

Betty:  As for my minimizing journey, like all who own a home, we had filled it with things that one feels you must have in a country where there is a Walmart on every block.  Getting ready for the move to Bolivia, S.A., was easier on us than it was our two children.  We flew with 19 duffel bags for four people, full of everything it took to start life in South America.  What we needed once we got there was easy to come by since there were always missionaries going home and leaving stuff.  We were able to sell, or mostly give away, everything when we returned to the states to help our home church.  So, with state side living again, the stuff began to accumulate again, until it began to get in the way of what God wanted us to do.  Things you buy, you must take care of, and that takes time.  And “stuff” had lost some of it’s luster, after living in Bolivia.  When we re-entered New Tribes, we gave all that stuff away again and took a few tools, cooking utensils, and our clothes to Papua New Guinea.  Returning back to the states, we took a few clothes and left the rest of our “stuff” for others to use.  All the moving had given me a new perspective on “stuff”, and my husband will tell you that too much stuff around me makes me nervous.  I never want to have anything I cannot give up for Him.  There is no piece of clothes, furniture, or decoration that I cannot part with, even though I have my favorites. One of our duffel bags got stolen on its way to Bolivia.  It was the one that had all the special children's Christmas ornaments I had collected every year.  That broke me of collecting.  I can walk away from anything I own because it does not own me.  Now people are a different story.  I have never been depressed over losing things, but leaving family and friends is another story. To this day, when we get to be with family, I am depressed for three days when we leave them. Let me put it this way, I allow myself three days of laying around, watching sad movies, reading books, not doing much, as I mourn my loss.  Then I put my depression aside and get on with life.  I lost my mother a year ago this next April, and I have yet to visit her gravesite during the couple of trips we have made back to Ill.  I told my husband, "When there is grass on her grave, I will visit it."  She is walking the green, green grass of Heaven, and that is enough for me, for now.  I have seen missionaries come to their country of service and become depressed over “stuff” that in the light of eternity means nothing.  A lack of stuff caused a few to quit.  My husband says I have had to have a tough heart to survive all the moves and different changes of our life.  A tough heart is not a hard heart.  The devil's fiery darts cannot penetrate a tough heart.  The older I get in the Lord, the less I need, and the more I want to invest in people.  But,  let me be real honest.  We share a rented house with our son and family, so I do miss having my own place and my own patio where I can sit uninterrupted.  With three grandchildren around,  that’s almost impossible.  I have a dear friend who lives a few blocks from me, who has offered her patio to me anytime I want.  She works full time.  I believe the Lord has answered my need for some peace and quiet in which to write and read.  He always knows what I need when I need it.  Another thing,  missionaries returning to their home countries have to contend with the amount of choices of stuff there is.  It’s overwhelming for months to shop for anything.  When you have lived content with so little, too much brings discontentment.  Our flesh is never, ever satisfied with what we have.  He alone can bring true contentment. 

Cheryl: What do your current ministry/missionary endeavors involve? What are you most trying to achieve at this season of life?

Betty:  We are currently Member Care Reps, covering five southwest states.  Our mission is to meet face to face with those missionaries who are from those states and are home on furlough. Our goal is to be an encouragement and assist them, as they transition back into stateside living.  We are able to counsel, coach, give information they might need, and get them in touch with the right people they need.  Mostly, we listen.  It’s our main ministry to listen and seek God's heart in what to say back to them, if needed, and care for them.

Cheryl:  What do you think God's most urgent message for His people is at this current time?

Betty:  Life is not about you; it’s about Me.

Cheryl: Describe the legacy you hope to leave behind for your children and grandchildren. What do you most want them to remember about you after God calls you home?

Betty:  I hope they always say about me, "All she talked about was Jesus."

Cheryl: Looking back over your life, what are some of the most amazing and outstanding things you have personally seen God do? Please tell us about some of the miracles you have witnessed and mountains you have seen Him move.

Betty:  When we graduated from Language School, we still owed a certain amount, so we, along with our two children, prayed for God to provide before we left for overseas.  We had been asked by a friend to stop at his church on our way back to our home church in KY and share with them our mission.  He did not know that there was another couple scheduled to speak that Sunday morning, but the pastor gave my husband 10 minutes to share.  They put us up in a hotel and gave us a check; it was exactly the amount of our bill at Language school.  It was a great start for our ministry, which would be living by faith.  God knows exactly what we need, when we need it.  What a great lesson for our children.  When were asked to go to Papua New Guinea, my husband was in congestive heart failure, and, of course the doctor would not ok him to go.  But he sent us to St. Louis to a specialist who told us that with the right meds, he could help Ace's heart, and we were ok to go.  We were so underfunded when we went to Bolivia, but not once did we do without food or clothes.  Our needs were met daily.  Our pastor preached all over the south and was always telling other pastors about us, and, because of him, our support raised while we were on the field.  The biggest miracles were our son and wife remarrying.  He left her and their two children and walked away like the prodigal son for two years.  We prayed, "God make him miserable.  Bring conviction on his soul daily."  We asked everyone we knew to pray exactly that way.  People all over the world prayed for him, and finally, he got tired of the pig pen and started his way back to the Father.  They remarried and now have another child.  Yep, that is the biggest miracle we have witnessed.  Just last night, a friend called wanting to give us a two day holiday, paid for.  Since we live with son and family, it can get stressful at times.  God is giving to us through His people.

Cheryl:  We are living in a world that is full of hopelessness and despair, and we are facing much opposition to our Christian faith as our culture continues to become more hostile to the message of the Gospel and the holy life Christ died to enable us to live. What is your personal message to His people today?

Betty:  When we meet with missionaries home for furlough, there are two things they struggle with the most.  Life is lived for pleasure and for stuff.  This is God’s people they are talking about.  It all distracts from God’s heart, the lost.  It’s hard to find a church that preaches truth and conviction.  The focus is not on Him, and they have a hard time finding people who even want to talk about the things of God.  Oh, they will talk about how many attended church that Sunday, the new programs, or the new church they are going to build, but talk about the heart of God, the lost living right around us, even next door.  Christian life is harder in the states or any developed country than it is in a third world country.  It literally takes three to four months to adjust back into US living.  And most cannot wait to get back to their ministry overseas, to living in remote villages, without all the stuff to distract them from their mission.  We have been home since 2012, and we know how easy it is to get caught up in it. It’s a battle for missionaries or any child of God who wants to live for Him.  We do not need faith when we can get what we need without praying for it.  Few people live in their needs, most live in their wants.  So, when I get the chance, I challenge them, mostly women I speak to, "Get out of your comfort zone, get over yourself, find someone to talk Jesus with."  One more piece of advice…take a short term mission trip, take your children, expand your world view.

Cheryl:  How can we pray for you? Are specific needs that are heavy upon your heart that we can help to lift to the Father on your behalf?

Betty:  I would ask prayer for contentment for where God has me now.  The heart issue has rendered me feeling like a child again; there is so much I still cannot do.  We decided to cancel a mission conference the end of March in Colorado, because the trip alone would undo me.  I am gaining ground slowly, but it’s very slow and that is where the discontentment comes in.  I am a
"Type A Martha", and there is nothing I love better than to share about missions.  My husband told me in the beginning we should not go, but I talked him into it.  Then last week at the Bible study, God was all over my heart, repeating, "This is not for you to go to."  My husband was in bed when I returned home, and I had to wake him up just to tell him.  Yep, contentment would be my prayer request.

Betty, I cannot tell you how much your words have challenged my heart.
I so appreciate you taking the time to share with us here!
May the dear Lord bless you abundantly, dear sister and friend!

Dear friends, please remember Betty and Ace in your prayers.
Betty is suffering from a heart condition, and as you can see, her heart is still very much in the work of the Lord.
How wonderful it would be to see God heal her and restore her health so she can continue to labor for Him!
There are no limits to what He can do, nor does He place age restrictions on healing.
"Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us..."
Ephesians 3:20
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Friday, March 24, 2017

The Inner Views of Will Graham

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."
Romans 1:16

"Have you ever heard Will preach?" the sweet lady from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association asked as she handed us a brochure.

"No, actually, I don't think I have", I replied.

"His preaching reminds me of Billy's", she said.

Naturally, we looked forward to the evening service with great anticipation.
We were there as members of the Concerned Women for America prayer team.
Will Graham was scheduled to preach that night, and CWA had a prayer room set up for people who wanted someone to pray with them after hearing Will's message.
If there was a dry eye in the crowd, towards the end of his sermon,
 when he spoke of a conversation with his friend in the woods, I didn't know about it.
I asked him to repeat that story here in the interview below.
It is with much gratitude that I share Will Graham's inner views with you today.
May God bless and minister to your heart, as you read.

Will Graham.

Cheryl:  First of all, I just wanted to take this moment to thank you for blessing us with your time and thoughts. We so appreciate you and are thankful for your ministry and dedication to our Lord. Could you tell us a bit about your childhood and what it was like growing up as Franklin Graham's son and Billy Graham's grandson?

Will:  Thank you for the opportunity! My brothers, sister and I had an incredible upbringing on a farm in the mountains of North Carolina. My parents were strict but loving, and my father went out of his way to make sure that we were protected from public attention or unfair expectations. That helped to make me the man I am today. I never rebelled or got into much serious trouble, and I’m thankful that I was spared that.

I’m often asked about what it was like growing up as Billy Graham’s grandson, and I have to admit that it’s a bit of a difficult question to answer because I’ve never known anything different. I will say that it has been an incredible blessing. There’s a bit of a “fishbowl” aspect to it. People are always trying to look in, and may view you differently or hold you to a different standard. But I will say this – The benefits far outweigh any negatives. For instance, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to travel the world, sharing the hope of Jesus Christ, if not for my grandfather’s ministry over the decades.

One thing that people should know about my grandfather – whom the grandkids call “Daddy Bill” – he’s always been the same person at home as you would see in public (in interviews, during Crusades, etc.), with one major difference; at home he’s quiet. He doesn’t want to talk. He’d rather hear about your life, your ministry, and your family. He’s a very humble man.

Cheryl:  What are some of your favorite memories of your grandmother, Ruth?

Will:  My grandmother was a quick-witted practical joker who could make a princess and a beggar feel equally comfortable in the same room. My grandfather would refer to her as the greatest Christian he had ever known and comment that she knew the Bible far better than he did. She helped to prepare and equip him to go out and accomplish what he was called to do.

In my grandparent’s home, my grandmother—who had suffered years of declining health—had a room where she spent much of her time. It was where she slept and where she studied the Bible. Several translations were spread across a large desk, all featuring big margins for taking notes. This room was also where she ultimately slipped into eternity.

In that room, on a wall filled with family photos, still hangs a simple woven wreath of Jerusalem thorns. Directly across from it is the bed where my grandmother courageously faced the debilitating pain that followed her for years.

She would never complain about the pain, though you would occasionally see her bright eyes wince and her teeth grit. Rather than lamenting, she would point up to those thorns, similar to the sharp, long blades that were formed into the crown that Jesus wore at His crucifixion. “If He endured so much for me,” she would say, “I have nothing to complain about.”

That was my grandmother – spry, funny, mischievous, but also brave, strong and full of faith.

Cheryl:  We would love to hear about your own, personal Christian testimony. How old were you when you surrendered your life to the Lord? What life events led you to make this decision?

Will:  I was six- or seven-years-old. It was just after I had grown out of “kid’s church” and was now old enough to be with the adults for the service. That Sunday, as I sat nestled in beside my parents at our church, I saw plates carrying small bites of bread and little cups of grape juice being passed around the sanctuary. I was excited! I was hungry, I’d behaved, and I was ready for this grown-up snack that was being handed out.

As the plate came by me, I reached out for a little piece of bread, but my parents wouldn’t let me have any. I couldn’t figure out what I had done that would disqualify me from the treat. The best I could come up with was that they were worried that I would spill the grape juice on the nice church carpet.

After church, my dad took me up to my room and started to explain to me what this thing they called communion meant, and how Jesus, to whom I had prayed often, loved me so much that He died on the cross for my sins and had risen from the grave. My dad invited me to make a decision to ask Jesus into my heart.

The fact that I was a good kid and that my last name was Graham didn’t mean anything. Rather, that decision I made in my bedroom with childlike faith is what secured my eternity in Heaven and is how I began a relationship with my Savior. It’s been more than 30 years since that afternoon, and I’ve lived a life full of joy, hope and purpose thanks to that decision I made with my dad after the communion service at church.

Franklin, Will, and Billy Graham

Cheryl:  When did you realize that God was calling you to follow in the footsteps of your father and grandfather to preach the Gospel? After witnessing, first-hand, the sacrifices their ministries required, was it difficult for you to come to a place of consecration in order to answer God's call?

Will:  From a very early age I knew that God had a calling on my life. I didn’t necessarily know what that meant, but I knew that I wanted to serve Him. One day in elementary school, our teacher asked us to draw a picture of what we wanted to do when we grew up. I remember all of the other boys in class drawing pictures of Joe Montana and Dan Marino. They wanted to be football players. I drew an open Bible and an aviation headset. I wanted to fly around and tell people about Jesus, just like my dad did.

Years later, as a teenager, I attended a Bible camp. It was there that I dedicated my life to serving the Lord however He would use me. I didn’t know if that meant bi-vocational ministry, being a missionary, or some other sort of service. I just knew that my life was in His hands, and I was along for the ride. And it’s been a fun, challenging, and blessed journey.

By the way, the two things I drew in elementary school – I accomplished both of those goals while a student at Liberty University: I earned my Bible degree and my pilot’s license!

Cheryl:  What is the most beneficial advice you have ever been given concerning your ministry? Who gave you this advice?

Will:  After God called me to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, I visited with my grandfather to get his thoughts and advice. I’m not sure what I was expecting; maybe practical strategies to move from Point A to B to C.

But I soon realized there would be no lengthy list of do’s and don’ts. I wouldn’t need my pen and paper to chronicle every bit of advice. “Will,” he said softly. “Pray, pray, pray, and study, study, study. Looking back, I wish I had done so much more of both.”

I must admit that I was taken aback by his guidance. After all, as long ago as I could remember, whenever I entered his house my grandfather was almost always praying or reading the Bible. How could my grandfather, who spent more time in prayer and study than anyone I had ever met, feel inadequate in those areas?

His response: “I wish I knew the Bible as well as your grandmother does. She knows it better than anyone I have ever met,” he whispered quietly. “And we could have done so much more if we had taken fewer speaking engagements and spent more time on our knees in earnest prayer.”

I’m now several years into my ministry and have preached on six continents, sharing the same message that my grandfather carried those many years. Not a day has gone by when I haven’t heard those whispered words in my head and sought to follow his humble guidance.

Cheryl:  I will never forget the message you preached at the Truth for a New Generation Conference. One part that was especially moving to us was when you related the story about the time your best friend and you were walking in the woods, and he asked you a very serious question. I don't think there was a dry eye in the house as you spoke. Will you kindly share about that experience with us here?

Will:  It was a cold, icy morning. I was out hunting with my friend Marty, but we decided to call it off because of the bad weather. It took a while to work our way through the thicket, back out to the road.

As we walked, Marty, my old seminary classmate who is still one of my closest friends, broke the silence. “Will,” he said, “Would you give your life for me?”

While I was unsure where this question was coming from, in that moment – as I quickly played the proposed scenario through my head – I knew I’d indeed be willing to lay down my life for my friend. If Marty were condemned to die, and I could save his life by giving up my own, I truly believe that I could and would do that.

“Yes, I guess I would,” I responded.

“I would give up my life for you too,” said Marty. And then after a moment’s pause, he added, “But I don’t think I’d ever be able to trade my child’s life for yours.”

Suddenly his seemingly random question took on a much deeper and resounding significance. Could I die for Marty? Sure. Would I ever – under any circumstances – send my daughters or son to die for Marty or anybody else? Not now, not ever!

Obviously, as we had sat quietly in the woods, Marty had been contemplating the amazing sacrifice of God sending His only Son to die for the sins of the world. As Christians, we hear this so much that I’m afraid we tend to forget or gloss over the pain behind it.

However, when you consider this from the perspective of a parent who – above all else – longs to protect, love and provide for your child, you see in a new, fresh and emotional way the pain that was not only felt by Jesus on the cross, but by God the Father as well. Christ was God’s own Son, a part of Him, whom He sent to die for the sins of mankind.

Just by asking me a simple question, Marty had described God’s perfect love for each of us, a love so strong that He would make the ultimate sacrifice. Marty couldn’t do it. I couldn’t either. But God did, and you and I can have eternal hope and life through Him because of it!

Cheryl:  Can you tell us about your work as the executive director at the Billy Graham Training Center? What are your duties there, and what type of training does the Center provide?

Will:  Many years ago, my grandparents had the vision to build a place where Christians could go to get away from the stress of life and focus on Christ. This vision ultimately resulted in the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove, a 1,200-acre conference center nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We bring in some of the best Bible teachers in the country to offer seminars which help to renew the spirit and refresh Christians to reach their world for Jesus.

We also hold special events throughout the year including concerts, Bible studies, personal retreats, and gatherings for senior citizens. Many church groups and Christian ministries also hold their meetings on our grounds.

As the executive director, I give guidance over this ministry, helping to ensure that everything runs smoothly and is on budget. I have an incredible staff that is fully and passionately committed to ministry and hospitality. They pray for each person that comes onto the Cove property – before, during and after their stay.

One of the things that I love the most about working at The Cove is that my grandparents’ fingerprints can be found in every aspect. From the stone work to the steeple top, they built it from the ground up and – if you know what to look for – their personalities shine through.

Cheryl:  To date, what is your most memorable moment while preaching the Gospel as an evangelist?

Will:  Some time ago I was preaching in Orange, Australia. It’s usually pretty hard to see the audience when you’re preaching, because there’s a light on you and the rest of the room is darker. However, I noticed a toddler running around in front of the stage, and the child’s mother sitting on the front row.

After the program that evening, I went to McDonalds with a couple of my colleagues as well as the Aussie pastor who was helping to oversee our efforts. As we ate, the same lady who had been in the front row came into the restaurant. She stopped by our table and thanked us for coming to Orange, and then left to order food.

Our group hung around, laughing and fellowshipping. As the lady got up to leave, she again stopped by our table and – this time around – she began to share her story.

We learned that her name was Catherine, and that she had been enduring the darkest days of her life. In fact, she admitted to us that she was contemplating a way to end it all and remove the pain. Just more than a year into a separation from her husband, and four weeks into a relocation to Orange, it had become too much.

“I’d gotten so bad, I was so lost, that I was contemplating taking myself out. But I couldn’t figure out how because it’s not something that you just know how to do,” she told us.

A woman she’d just met had invited her to come along to our event, and her whole world changed that day. As the Gospel was proclaimed, Catherine recognized that God loved her despite the struggles she had encountered and the pain she felt.

Just as she had been sitting on the edge of the darkness in that auditorium, with the light so nearby, so Catherine moved from suicidal thoughts to redemption, from darkness to light. She reconciled with her husband and they steadily worked to get their lives back on track by embracing the hope, purpose and love presented to them through Christ!

Cheryl:  How does it feel to know that you have been instrumental in personally leading a lost soul to the cross of Jesus Christ?

Will:  Let me first say that I never – never – want to take credit for the work of the Holy Spirit. This journey isn’t about me. When people come forward at the invitation, they don’t come to me. They come to Jesus. Will Graham can’t save anybody. My prayer is that I would just get out of the way and allow Him to speak through me.

With that said, I’ve been incredibly blessed to have a front row seat, witnessing what God is doing around the world. People ask me if I’ve ever seen a miracle, and I say that I see them all the time. Every time somebody comes forward with tears in their eyes to surrender their lives to Christ, I see that which was once dead, raised to life. I’m blessed beyond measure.

Cheryl:  We are surely living in the perilous times prophesied about in God's Word, and the tide of evil seems so strong and impossible to combat in this culture that is growing more and more hostile towards God and His cause. As a minister working on the front lines during such an evil time, what do you feel is the most effective thing we, as individual Christians, can do to make a difference?

Will:  I think there are a couple of things. First of all, we need to get back to our First Love. I feel like faith has become a thing we do, rather than who we are. Even Christians are easily swayed by the ways of the world and the influences of culture. We’re too busy fighting with each other, and not spending enough time in the Word and in prayer. We, as believers, need to be so sold out for God that we allow Him to perform that radical change in our lives. The world needs to see that there’s something different about us.

Second, when people do see that there’s something different and ask about it, we need to be prepared to share the hope that we have in Him (1 Peter 3:15). Every day we’re surrounded by people who are struggling and in need of hope, or people who are going through the motions thinking everything is okay, but they’re dying spiritually. Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (ESV). We can never be good enough, righteous enough, to save our friends. However, we can lead them to salvation by verbally sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ and allowing the Holy Spirit to bring conviction and repentance.

Until we become fully in love and on fire for Jesus, and then use that passion to reach others with His hope, we are on the wrong path.

Cheryl:  As a Christian father of three, what do you consider to be the most important thing(s) we should be teaching our children? What values should we most diligently strive to instill in them while they are young?

Will:  One of the biggest things to me – apart from the main thing, which is ensuring that they are exposed to the Gospel and put their faith in Jesus – is just to give them a firm foundation and base in the Bible. As a child, my parents had a little plastic loaf of bread on the table that contained a stack of Bible verses written on little cards. It was called the “Bread of Life,” I believe. You know what? It worked! I still remember the first verse I memorized from that little plastic loaf.

In the day in which we’re living, there are so many competing voices trying to tell us what’s right and wrong. Entertainers, politicians, friends, other family members – I want my children to know that in a wavering world, Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and the Bible is the last word on morality and sin… No matter what anybody else may say.

Cheryl:  On a personal level, what is one of the hardest seasons you have yet had to face? How did your faith in God sustain and uphold you during the darkness?

Will:  I’m not sure that I would call this one of the hardest seasons of my life, but it certainly was one of the most impactful. I will always remember the day that God called me to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

In 2006, I was the pastor of a growing church plant in Raleigh, North Carolina, and in the middle of a church building campaign. Things were going great. The church treated me and my family very well emotionally, spiritually and financially. I was happy and content there.

I’d never set out to be a pastor, and honestly it was one of the last things I wanted to do. But – through a series of events – God brought me to this point and this place, and I loved it, and had no desire to go anywhere else.

That particular day I was out mowing the lawn, and God spoke to me and said “It’s time.” I felt it so strongly that it was almost like I was jerked away from the lawn mower. I went into my home, sat at my couch, and wept.

Moments later, with my mind in turmoil as I wrestled with this calling, my phone rang. At the other end of the line was an evangelist from Texas whom my father met while they were ministering to contras in Central America. He and I hadn’t visited in years.

“Will,” he said, “God laid it on my heart to call you. I know you’re in the middle of making a big decision right now, and I want to pray with you …”

It was clear to me that it was God’s will and God’s timing to go help my dad at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Now, just because it was God’s will and God’s timing didn’t necessarily make it any easier to leave. I loved that church, and I still love it. I still have my membership there. Telling the senior pastor of the church which had planted my church – a man who had become a mentor to me – that I had been called away was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. And the long hours and weeks away from home that I’ve been called to as part of my new ministry have not been easy.

But when God shows you His will for your life, you better listen and be ready to obey. Because I followed His leading into evangelism, I’ve had the opportunity to be on the frontline of His work around the world. I’ve had the incredible blessing of watching people across a multitude of countries on six continents as they’ve come forward to accept a new eternity with Christ.

Cheryl:  I was so encouraged to hear that God's people rose to the occasion and voted in bigger numbers during this Presidential Election than they have in decades. With all my heart I believe that one of the main reasons for this is due to the extensive efforts of your father, Franklin Graham, and his Decision America 2016 Tour that encompassed all 50 states. Before the election, my family and I thought much about this and prayed earnestly that his efforts would not be in vain, and how we rejoice that God dealt with his people and they felt compelled to participate in the voting process. Now that the election is behind us, and in light of all that faces our new president, including the daunting, weighty responsibility of the nomination of Supreme Court justices, what are some of the most important things we, as God's people, can do to support President Donald Trump?  

Will:  First, thank you for your prayers and support of the Decision America Tour. My dad felt that it was vitally important to call the nation to prayer, and more than 230,000 joined hand-in-hand across our nation to cry out to God through this movement. He also shared the Gospel at each stop, resulting in thousands of people accepting Jesus Christ. Praise the Lord!

I would encourage everybody reading this to not only pray for President Trump, but for all branches of government – from your local city council and school board, all the way to Washington D.C. Do so earnestly and sincerely.

My grandfather once said, “We have so many battles going on in America today that we should be a people of prayer. Our government needs prayer. Our leaders need prayer. Our schools need prayer. Our youth need our prayers. Our families need our prayers.” And he said that in 1991. Think of how much our country and our world have changed in the last quarter-century!

I would also caution people to remember that our struggle is not a political one, but a spiritual one. Kings and rulers … or presidents … will never be perfect. They will let us down. They will take stances that are opposite of ours. We can’t become complacent. We need to first and foremost be people of prayer, who walk closely with Christ and open our hearts to the Holy Spirit. We need to live lives that are set apart from the world. And then we need to be prepared to offer the hope that we have to those who so desperately need it.

Politics and presidents aren’t going to fix the “heart problem” that we have. Only Christ has the answer.

Cheryl:  What are your favorite Bible verses and go-to resources in times of discouragement?

Will:  I have a few. The first, like it is for many, is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” This is the beauty and simplicity of the Gospel – the message I’ve been called to preach is summed up perfectly in this one verse. God loved you and me so much that He gave His Son as the ultimate sacrifice to pay our debt. Because of that, we can have hope not just for this world, but for eternity.

Another of my favorites is Luke 12:12: “for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” This was the first verse I ever memorized. It was one of many written on slips of paper, stuck into a plastic “Bread of Life” loaf that sat on our kitchen table, which I mentioned earlier. I love the message here. So often people are afraid to share their faith because they're not sure what to say. Don’t worry about it! Make yourself available, and the Holy Spirit will use you.

Finally, 1 Samuel 3:19: “And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.” First, I love the books of 1 and 2 Samuel. I’ve spent years working in and through those books. This particular verse catches me because of the imagery in “the Lord … let none of his words fall to the ground.” Everything that Samuel said on behalf of God was received and came to pass. It’s my prayer as I get up to preach the Gospel message as well: “Lord, move me out of the way and speak through me. Not my words, but yours. Let none of these words fall to the ground, but let them be received by willing and ready ears.”

Cheryl:  How can we pray for you?

Will:  Thank you for asking! Please pray for my family – My wife, Kendra, and my children: CJ (Christine Jane), Rae Rae (Rachel Austin), and Quinn (William Franklin Graham V). My calling takes me away from home for significant stretches of time, and God has blessed me with an amazing wife who holds everything together. Thank you for praying for us!

Also, just pray for my evangelistic ministry. I’m incredibly blessed to have a front-row seat to watch as God works around the world, but it’s not without significant challenges. Pray that I would remain humble and seek Christ first (John 3:30: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”) Pray for safety for me and our team as we travel into a variety of situations and locations. And pray especially for those who will hear the Gospel (many for the first time ever), that their hearts will be softened and prepared to hear the Good News of the Gospel.

We will surely be praying for Will, his family, and his ministry,
and we ask that you do the same, dear readers.
A big thank you to Will for being willing to take the time to share his inner views with us here.
We have all been abundantly blessed!

(Click here to read about our experience volunteering for the BGEA Decision America 2016 Tour.)

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