Friday, August 30, 2013

A tough choice

Letters were zooming back and forth from Minneapolis to Memphis where my boyfriend Ted was completing his two-year stint in the Navy, studying hard as a Medical Corpsman with the goal of entering the University of Kansas in the Fall to begin the lengthy education required to become a surgeon. He mustered out of the Navy in January of 1946. Valentine's Day was coming up.  Billy Graham was returning to the school to speak for a Sweetheart Banquet, so I wrote Ted and asked him to come. ...which he did.  Billy, as always made the Gospel very clear. Ted returned to our home state,  registered at the University of Kansas for the Fall semester, then left for the summer to pitch baseball on a sandlot team in Ponca City, Oklahoma. I had fallen in love with those pitching muscles while watching him on the mound during high school. After we married and together produced more athletes, I spent a huge chunk of every day cooking meals that built more muscles. When the trophies began to accumulate I felt like shouting out: "I helped build those muscles!". ...but of course moms just suck it up and babble to ourselves: "Good job, Mom".

Billy had signed me up for a music degree at Northwestern, for Mr. Nelson, the dear man who connected me with Billy in Manhattan, Kansas, and Chicago, had heard me sing as I stood in back of him in the little "church". I was not aware that he had been listening. Music was a natural talent; I took and take no credit for that whatsoever. I had not played the piano in the little fellowship, because I was a boogie woogie and swing player and somehow sensed that I needed to keep that part of me under wraps. ...and then came the night when I was nearly the first one to arrive for the prayer meeting. I sat down at the piano and hit it! A kinda weird guy who was part of the fellowship slithered up behind me, put his hand on my shoulder and said, "JoAnn, we don't like that kind of music here". Well, there ya' go: my first introduction to "The List" that I mentioned in last week's blog.

...back to the music department at Northwestern Bible College.  I looked around  (Believe me, I did) for male muscles and there was nary a one. I began in earnest to pray for Ted Stone's salvation.  ...Rotten motive, but,  oh well...  I returned to Kansas for the summer and Ted came from Oklahoma to meet me there. I knew just enough scripture to know I couldn't marry a man that wasn't a Christian.  I asked God to give me something that clearly revealed that I had to break up with this man I had more or less dated for over three years.  He told me a lie, then he lied about lying,  and that did it.  Adios, Ted Stone. As he went out the door, I thought: "What have you done, you idiot?  You have just said goodbye to the nicest guy in the whole world  (O.K., so he lies a little!),  and besides, he's got muscles!"  Two months later I got a letter from Ted saying: "That night, I was sitting in a bus station in Wichita, Kansas, waiting for my bus to Oklahoma, and what you had said to me hit me hard. I said to God, 'I don't even know if you exist or not, but if you do and you can change my life as you have changed Jo's, come in.' " ...not your basic "sinner's prayer", was it?  There wasn't one word about his admitting to being a sinner. Come to think of it, I am not 100% sure that Ted ever thought he was a sinner, even though I suggested to him more than once that he was.

When I got Ted's snail mail, I was delirious with joy!  I wrote him back and made a date to meet him back in Kansas in August. We met and talked until 4 in the morning. I had never read Ephesians 5:21 up until that time, but somehow understood that negotiating is a legitimate option.  It's a key verse that heads up that powerful marriage passage that has been thrashed nearly to death over the centuries. Anyway, here's what I said: "Come to Northwestern for just one semester, get some Bible under your belt, then go on to K.U. and head on into medicine." He agreed to do that, told his parents, and that announcement hit the parental fan.  His dad offered to pay for his education and buy him a new car that very day if he would "...give up that woman who has influenced you into this religion' ". Ted said, "Thank you, Dad, but I have to follow Christ." Yeah, yeah. I know his motives were mixed.

Now, girls, God has given us a powerful ability to influence. Note that I did not say manipulate. That was Eve's screwed-up response to Satan's seduction.  Ted went with me to school, I introduced him to Don Rosenberg who headed up the Navigators (scripture memory course started by Dawson Trotman for Navy men) and Ted Stone took off like an eagle.  The rest is history and I'm a gonna tell it to you, week by week.  There was never a conversation about his becoming a medical surgeon. ...not ever. Instead, he became a "Surgeon for Wounded Souls". He is in God's "hotel" now. When the Rapture comes, which could be today, we will meet together with the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord.  So, "Come, Lord Jesus!"

Next week: Tricky lists

Just as I am Thou wilt receive; wilt welcome, pardon, change, relieve
Because Thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Love, Jo