Safe Place with Ruth Graham

We have entered Holy Week as we look toward the crucifixion and resurrection. I am always moved by the fact that as Jesus went to Jerusalem, “He resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51), even though He knew what would happen there. He went intentionally.

If you are like me you try to avoid, hurt, pain, bad people, upsetting situations… Not Jesus. He went right at it – He didn’t shrink back or hesitate. He was resolute. He was not to be dissuaded, discouraged, detained, detoured, distracted or delayed. He decided to obey His Father no matter the cost.

There was the celebratory entrance in to Jerusalem. That did not distract Him. When He entered the city Mark’s Gospel tells us, “He looked all around”. That did not discourage Him.

But what did He see? A crowd busy with the day’s activities of the Temple’s business. That did not detain Him. He saw the money changers cheating their customers. That did not dissuade Him. No doubt He was tired and the disciples a bit grumpy. That did not delay Him.

Surely, it was noisy with crying, bleating, yelling, laughter, kids playing, haggling – all that you hear in a market place. He did not detour around it. He stood erect, face full of determination and fury as He saw His Father’s house desecrated by the “business” of worship. He began to turn over the tables and reclaim the purpose of the Temple. This did not detain Him.

He knew why He was in Jerusalem and would not detour the city nor the hill that stood right outside the gate. He knew the descending gloom. He knew the battle was about to begin. He knew the searing
pain that was to come. He knew the betrayal was on Judas’s lips. He knew Peter’s love was conditional. He knew…

Yet “He resolutely set to go to Jerusalem.” What amazing love, How can it be?

If He were to come to you today and look around, what would He see?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These past weeks I have sensed a crowd gathering at Heaven’s gate in anticipation of my Father’s arrival. What excitement and eager anticipation on both sides. As the book’s title says, “Heaven is for real”. And for those who have put their faith in Jesus as their Savior, Heaven is where we will spend eternity. My Father is there.

My youngest daughter said she would love to be a fly on the wall (surely there are no flies in Heaven!) when her Daddy Bill met Jesus. I thought about that. I doubt it was really any different. My Father has been walking with Jesus for so many years… I imagine they hugged deeply as Jesus whispered, “Well done my good and faithful servant”. It was a brother greeting a brother, a Father welcoming His son… The familiarity had long ago been established.

And no doubt, it was a battle-scarred warrior returning from the front to lay his victory at the feet of his King amid great celebration. The warrior claims no honor for himself but gives it all to his King. Many have commented on my Father’s great humility. It was because he understood his mission – it was not to amass the world’s acclaim or admiration or fame. It was not go gain wealth – that was one of his fears. It was to do his Lord’s bidding. It was not to build a kingdom but The Kingdom.

So many have commented to me that my Father’s reward will be huge in Heaven. No doubt it will be. But perhaps not as we would reward – for the vast crowds that came to hear him preach or the thousands who responded to the invitation to receive Christ. God doesn’t see things as we do. God rewards faithfulness, not numbers. My father will be rewarded for his faithfulness just as the fireman who showed up day after day, or the nurse, or the teacher, or the janitor. No matter what our task, when we do it as unto the Lord faithfully, day after day, whether we feel like it or not, God sees and God will reward us.

The big change is that my Father will have no limitations. His body will be strong and young again. All the travelling and preaching took its toll – for years. He said he never felt the same after the 1957 New York Crusade in Madison Square Garden. The reunion with family members will be sweet since here on earth he was so often unavailable to them. I hope God gives my Mother and Father 1,000 years to be alone and enjoy each other. (There was never any privacy here on earth.)

People have speculated about my father’s wealth and, imagined a fortune. Things did not interest my father. He was able to live comfortably but simply for a man of his stature. Though some would consider him a celebrity he considered himself a simple farm boy from North Carolina. His tastes were simple. He loved hotdogs and beans out of a can. He was easy to please. After my Mother died, we went to the house to begin the process of sorting things out. We went room to room. When we got to my Father’s room there was very little of value only sentiment; books, photos, childish drawings from great-grandchildren – not much of worldly value. My sister, Anne, looked around the room slowly and said, “A man of God values little the things of the world.” My Father was a man of God.

But now he has entered the Presence of the One he served. We rejoice that he fought a good fight; he finished his course; he kept the faith and there awaits for him a crown of righteousness.

We will miss him. Most of us have never known a world without him. In a world bereft of courageous, true, honorable men– he was one. I was blessed to call him, “Daddy”.