Beliefnet
Safe Place with Ruth Graham

Have you noticed that we all have great aspirations at the New Year to turn the page, get a brand new start, start over…however you want to phrase it… Maybe make resolutions to quit drinking, loose weight, exercise more…

Well…this year I thought I would focus on Bible memorization. Spend more time focusing on God’s Word. Fill my mind with it. I had great intentions but I’ll be honest with you, I’ve gotten off to a bad start. I was away from home at the New Year so that threw me off and once I did get home I got busy packing up the Christmas decorations, getting groceries, writing thank you notes…In other words, I did not make provisions for it.

I should have decided when I was going to do it, how I was going to do it and what scripture I was going to tackle first!

My first mistake was that I was not intentional about it. That let all sorts of things crowd it out. So…now I will make my plans and be intentional so I can do what I set out to do.

I will keep you posted on my progress!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

I just got back this afternoon from spending time at my father’s home spending some time with him.

This year I determined to give my children and grandchildren “memories not money”! (My youngest daughter couldn’t go because her son was ill. – We missed her terribly.) I took them to visit my father – stay in his home, which they didn’t remember doing, see it all decorated for Christmas and sleep in the attic like I did. (It’s a nice attic.)

We drove up to Boone, NC to have lunch with Franklin and Jane and some of their family then got a tour of Samaritan’s Purse. They had never been there and it had been years since I was there. It has grown!! Very impressive.That evening we had dinner with Franklin’s eldest, Will, and enjoyed him.

The next day we toured The Biltmore House – all decorated for Christmas. It was a mob scene – you almost couldn’t see the house for all the people! It had been years since I was there. Lots of changes and new rooms open. I got a copy of “The Lady on the Hill” – all about the preservation efforts by the Cecil family to keep it going – and robustly. Interesting, to say the least.

We had an ice storm so the kids got snowed in at “Daddy Bill’s”. Fun.

They loved exploring around the house – seeing all the little cubby holes and “secret” places. A kid’s place for sure. They hiked the mountain – it’s different in the winter with a frozen pond and streams. They had so much fun discovering the place for themselves and I know my mother was looking down enjoying them enjoying the place she built for her family.

My son took me out for a lovely lunch at a “ta da” restaurant in Asheville. Some of the best food I have ever put in my mouth. We had a really nice time.

We visited with our “Korean” cousins. One of the girls was hospitalized briefly in Asheville so Noelle and I bombed in to see her and caught glimpse of even more cousins.

My youngest brother and his wife flew in the 31st. We hadn’t seen each other in years. And drat! we did not take a photo.

I saw a niece and nephew as well as a great nephew and his wife, celebrating their 3rd anniversary. And others…

So…mission accomplished. Memories not money!

I posted this six years ago…it is still good!

Does your house look like this? The carols are playing on the stereo. There is a blazing fire on the hearth – with extra split logs neatly stacked nearby. Snow is gently falling outside. All the Christmas cards and packages have been addressed and mailed early. The smell of cookies baking – not burning – fills the house. The carolers are outside as a sleigh carrying children slowly glides by – harness bells jingling on a starlit night. All the handmade gifts are wrapped to perfection under the tree where all the lights are working. The children are neatly dressed in velveteen with white collars. Even the dog has a red bow around his neck. Your in-laws will arrive soon as the family gathers with smiles and warm hugs. And you smile to yourself that have money leftover!

If we are honest we have stood in the grocery line and thumbed through Martha Stewart’s magazine with wistfulness. She tells us that we can make everything by hand; the soufflé won’t fall; the packages are wrapped like masterpieces; we can look rested and be ready two weeks early. So that you can relax by the fire with your hot tea and homemade scones to listen to the carolers outside your spotless windows as you welcome family and friends to your hearth.

Good grief! That is not real life!! At least not at my house. The holidays arrive whether you are ready or not. We are bombarded with messages to spend and do until we feel that anything less than “all” isn’t enough. Our culture – even the church – has bought into the advertising message that families love to gather and they all get along – even the dog behaves!

Christmas isn’t about cookies, magic, shopping or snow. Somewhere along the line we have lost Christmas.

Have you noticed that real life happens on the way to Christmas? We talk about peace and joy. But few of us really experience it especially at Christmas. The lights are on the tree but not in our hearts. There is no silence in your night.

Have you noticed that problems and heartache don’t take a holiday? Christmas just adds to an overcrowded schedule and budget.

C.S. Lewis said, “Long before December 25th everyone is worn out – physically worn out by the weeks of daily struggle in overcrowded shops, mentally worn out by the effort to remember all the right recipients and to think of suitable gifts for them. They are in no trim for merry-making, much less (if they should want to) to take part in a religious act. They look far more as if there had been a long illness in the house.”

I want to ask, what does faith have to do with Christmas? That may seem like a ridiculous question after all it is the celebration of Christ’s birth.

What does faith have to do with Christmas in the real world as we sit in heavy traffic going over our long list of things that have to get done or perhaps sitting in a hospital waiting room or looking in disbelief at your foreclosure notice.

Perhaps you are dreading the season. Your family has one missing from the table this year and your heart is sad. Perhaps the ones that will come to your house don’t get along and that brings stress. One will come drunk or stoned. Perhaps you are not worried about decorating or wrapping packages because you are all alone this year. You have tried you best to shop on a thin budget; it is tiresome and you are weary of trying to be “creative”. And the gifts you carefully chose will be returned the next day. Perhaps you have terrible memories of the holidays and you are just hoping to hang on until January 2nd just to get through it.

What does faith have to do with Christmas in today’s culture? Christmas is for healing, about new beginnings. Christmas is about hope. I cannot teach you hope – I can only live out my own hope in the light of what the angel told a Middle Eastern man in a dream long ago. “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name, Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1;20-21 NIV) That is the hope we have – forgiveness of sin, freedom from our burdens, God’s presence with us in our day to day lives, peace in the midst of the struggle.

That’s what Christmas is all about.

Push is coming to shove now…Christmas is just 2 weeks away and I have birthdays before and after and a 3-day trip. How will
I ever get ready?

My neighbor had a lovely party Saturday night. Her house was beautifully decorated – as was the whole neighborhood. Yes, I did get my house somewhat decorated – my oldest daughter helped bring the smaller tree from the attic so it could go by the front door as well as 3 pretty red lanterns with “automatic” candles inside.

On Saturday, we had 2 inches of snow so it was very Christmassy. The houses were all decorated – lights twinkling from every window. The “town” Christmas tree was all lit up and everything looked so festive. As I walked out the door, I could hear voices coming from every corner. And as we left, I could hear each one call “Merry Christmas!” Almost like in the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”.

Then yesterday I was ordering Christmas gifts on-line but was frustrated with one website – it wasn’t doing what i thought it should so I called their 800 number. A very pleasant woman said rather than her take my order she would help me with the on-line order as that would give me better discounts and advantages. I was all for that!

We chatted a bit and she indicated her husband was a minister. I told her I was ordained, too.

When It came time to give my credit card information, I gave the name on the card: Ruth B. Graham. She took it down and then said, “You have a famous name”. I replied, “I have a famous father.” She didn’t comment. But she continued to ask for information. Shortly, she tentatively asked me, “Are you by any chance related to Billy Graham?” I told her he was my father. She was so pleased – she had been a counsellor in his Cleveland crusade years before. She loved him and my family.

In our conversation she indicated she has two grown children who are “prodigals”. The church has not been kind to her husband – he is in a new church now – not as senior pastor – but the senior pastor is good and her husband enjoys working with him. The transition hasn’t been easy.

As we wound up the order, I asked if I could pray for her. She agreed. I prayed for her two children and her husband. I told her to tell him not to get discouraged; God would honor his faithfulness to His Word.

What an unexpected gift for both of us! I was just ordering from a stranger…an ordinary act – she was just taking orders from strangers who called in. An ordinary day.

But we had a divine encounter! While we started as strangers we finished as sisters!

Only Jesus can do that!