Friday, July 25, 2014


Last night as I rounded the last curve before arriving at my house I was startled by a sleeping male elk right beside my driveway. He had a velvet rack on his head that seemed to reach to Heaven.  I had to tell somebody so called a couple I love, my Dee and son Jeff and sent them all pictures from my cell....after Dee told me how to do it.  This morning the dogs down the mountain awoke me, yapping out this message: "Wake up and look up!"  I did.  God was taking His giant paint brush and swirling the clouds around and around, kind of like we swirl icing with a flourish on our cakes.  I don't want to miss God's flourishes. I get such a kick out of seeing his under-the-sea creatures on Nat Geo.  Can you believe the color;  the design;  the feathery fin He added? ...and the faces and bodies he gave to his animals! Hilarious! Interesting! Colorful! ...but humans need some help. ...especially women.   I think make-up is exactly what it implies:  It "makes up" for what we don't have.  I remember being confused by the plainness of the girl students at Northwestern Schools when Billy Graham sent me there.  What a relief it was to me when Ruth Graham, Billy's wife came to our school to visit. She was dressed in the fashion of the day and her lipstick matched her outfit!

Indeed I would have had multiple personalities had I tried to dress to  please all the women in our many ministries.  I read a quip by Malcom Muggeridge written soon after his conversion about the way Christians looked: "There is something worldly about their unworldliness."  That resonated.
Having been a poor farm girl I learned early on to sew, copying the fashions of the day   It is against my principles to buy any garment that isn't marked down 'til it squeaks.  On most days  I dress and put on my lipstick.  If I don't I have a sloppy attitude all day.

My long life has been rich.  My Father has given me many exciting ministries. At the core of me, however, I am a homemaker.  I learned quickly that men thrive on words of affirmation. Who doesn't?  I don't know what you know in Heaven, Ted, but here comes some more affirmation:  We had been married about six months. At an intersection in Minneapolis where we were in school an elderly man slammed into our '40 Ford. I was driving home alone from work, was thrown into the back seat, and there stood a policeman beside the car insisting that I go to a doctor to see if internally anything was rearranged.  The doctor, assuming that we knew we were pregnant said these words: "You are fine and your baby is fine too!"  I nearly passed out from shock, but you,  Ted said, "Honey, that's wonderful! You are fine! ...and we're going to have a baby!" 

You never flinched when the washing machine spewed water all over the kitchen floor. When the car wouldn't start for me, you put the key in the ignition, the engine came to life and purred like a kitten and never once did you roll your eyes at me.  Thank you. No matter what shocked the family and the many people you pastored, your calming words settled everybody down.  ..and by the way, that "internal rearrangement" was our Doug who rearranged our lives for the next sixty years. ...and now you are both with Jesus. ...The rest of the family is coming. His time.

You would be proud of me for this: You know how I break out in a sweat at the sight of a manual. A few days ago I purchased a to-be-assembled utilitarian shelf unit that stands behind a bathroom commode. The picture on the package looked as if it would be a "piece o' cake" to put together.  Hours later I was calling it a "piece o' _______!"  There are only a couple of  little metal thingies left over.  I wonder:  When a surgeon gets us all sewn up and there are a couple of body parts left over, does he still consider the operation a success?

I think often of the pioneer women who started their trek to the West Coast with a husband and family and somewhere along the way Hiram was shot by a Sioux or died from something a doctor could have fixed, but there wasn't a physician within a thousand miles.  Neither were there coroners or grave diggers,  so a shattered wife buried her man,  grabbed her kids by the hands and headed west.  ...and I seriously considered throwing an unassembled gizmo for my bathroom into the back of our truck and taking it to the dump?  Come on, Jo.

Ted left me with a legacy, but it wasn't money. I am still riding in on the ministry Ted and I had together. Everyone misses him, but they know that the wisdom I share with them has been gathered over a lifetime of a ministry balanced by my husband's man-like thinking.

Next week, perhaps I will write about a few more more things I learned about God in the Middle East. Perhaps.

                         OLD HYMN OF THE WEEK, SLIGHTLY TWEEKED

I need thee every minute, most gracious Lord
No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.

I need thee every minute, in joy or pain.
Come quickly and abide, or life is vain.


Love, Jo

As of an hour ago, we all have a brand new thirty-two year old sister -in-Jesus. One of the beautiful Thursday girls, a Korean,  brought to my house a woman she has been loving to Christ.  All that was needed were the salvation scriptures.  Rejoice!!! Dance!! Heaven is!!!      J.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Pilot

There are benefits to being my age. We have the privilege of putting away childish things and childish people: bullies, legalizers and non-stop talkers who never listen.  We don't have to show up for every event. We can take a nap for three minutes and feel refreshed. We can have last night's spaghetti for breakfast.. We can pass on becoming involved in every looming squabble.  We can sleep on the deck if we want to.  We can watch an old movie that doesn't showcase a couple thrashing around in bed after the first kiss. We can decide not to go to the community swimming pool when we hear a rumor that the water temperature has been dropped a couple of degrees.  We can cry ourselves to sleep from loneliness for our life mate and son when the tsunami breaks loose.  We can take high-powered meds for relief from pain and choose not to think about our liver that may be screaming,  "Stop! You're killing me!"

In these blogs I have been remembering details of our travels I was too busy to document when we were racing through life.  As we de-planed and folk asked "How was your trip?"  all we could think of was how good it would feel to sleep in our own clean bed, eat food that didn't have unidentified objects in it and swallow a drink of water from any old fountain.  That question, "How was your trip?" is as unfair as: "How are you?" I usually answer with: "Which part of me do you really want to know about?"

It's taken all these years to figure out what our trips were about...for me. Oh, I know that the mission/teaching trips were for those we counseled, encouraged, prayed and cried with. ...but what did I learn that was a "need to know" for my own journey?   What did the ancient Greek men teach me as we sat and talked for two days in the market place on Patmos?   Why was it important for me to learn from the Lady in the Lobby in Tel Aviv that in Israel if one is not a Muslim or Jew, that person is dubbed a "Christian"?  Think of the ramifications of that lie!   What perspective did I gain from a shouting Arab preacher on a Sunday night in Jerusalem?  O.K., let's go there. If I have told you this story in a previous blog, please humor me.

Before we left for this Middle East trip our Bakersfield churches were being tormented over the hot-potato subject of Armenianism versus Calvinism. Actually there should be no "versus".  I believe it was Spurgeon who answered when asked how he reconciled the two: "They are friends and friends don't need reconciling." 

There we were in Jerusalem on a Sunday night. The night before we had been soul-jolted by personally hearing the stories of fifteen Holocaust survivors.  Ted's stomach was queasy and he wanted to sleep.  I felt antsy, so went to a phone book and looked up the names of churches,  called one, got the pastor on the phone who told me his service started at 7 P.M.  I hailed a tall turbaned Arab driver and away we went, searching for the church. An hour later, we were still searching when we spotted a few arm-waving people hanging over a balcony. The pastor had failed to mention that his church was on the second floor of a nondescript building with no visible house number.  He headed into his message, aimed straight at me. two languages.  Then he asked: "What does your husband do?" "He's a pastor."  "Does he believe in closed communion?"  " He believes that no one should be excluded from taking Communion if they want to."  Voice and fist raised,   he replied:  "I could never fellowship with your husband!  I just left the staff of a church down the street because they don't believe in closed Communion!"  That explained why there were only six people  (his wife, his three kids and his mother-in-law)  listening to this man rant in two languages.  Right then, I gained perspective about the doctrinal disagreement back home.  I was ready to face whatever had been gut-wrenching before we left and head for America and home the next day.

I have just finished reading and dispensing to the Thursday girls the little book:  "These are the Generations" by Mr. and Mrs. Bae, released by "Voice of the Martyrs".  Some of the people of one of the Thursday girls are these very North Koreans, bringing this story up close and personal.  If the propagators of socialism reach their relentless goal of taking over America, your descendants will suffer in just this way.  I suggest you read the book.

There are a couple of things I consider worth dying for: 1) You are "right with the Father".   If you have Jesus in your heart you deserve to know that.  2)  ...the privilege of loving people until they can believe they are "right with God".   In a nutshell,  that's "discipleship".  Knowing that He was leaving us with enemies that would fight us every step of the way as we obeyed His assignment, He comforted us with this promise: : "And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age!" 

                                     OLD HYMN:  "Jesus Savior, Pilot Me'

Jesus Savior, pilot me over life's tempestuous sea
Unknown waves before me roll
Hiding rock and treach'rous shoal
Chart and compass came from thee;
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

When at last I near the shore and the fearful breakers roar
'Twixt me and the peaceful rest
Then while leaning on Thy breast
May I hear thee say to me,
"Fear not, I will pilot thee."

Love,  Jo

Monday, July 14, 2014

Travelling Backwards

I cannot travel far distances any more. ...and yet I do, as I write my story.  I retrace my many travels and experiences of a lifetime. Everybody has a story.  Jesus told stories (parables) that had an eternal meaning. I trust that mine do.  Today's story will not be about someone I met on our travels, but will be about my own journey out of darkness. Perhaps it will shed some Light on any hidden darkness that may keep you from believing you are precious to God. ....worth, to Him, every drop of His Son's blood.

Recall that last week I related the story of the Lady in the Lobby, a survivor of the Holocaust who awoke from shock by her own screams that she no longer had to stifle.  The week before I told you of being for a time at a Retreat center where my son sent me for rest and recovery from depression and exhaustion. Others who were there, most of whom were in full-time Christian ministry, were able to pick up bats and beat on mattresses that represented people who had abused them.  For some reason I was held back from displaying my anger at this Retreat, most likely because of my pride.  The counselor/owner told me: "You are the last woman I ever expected to see here."  All that says is that I was pretty good at masking my pain by working hard in ministry. My hurt went all the way back to birth. My self- appointed assignment as a little girl in my family was that of being lighthearted in the midst of a grueling farm life.  Elder abuse, masked as "guarding the purity of the church"  put me over the edge, but long before that,  my abuse by two intimidating, demeaning older brothers and teenage boys who tried to get me to have sex with them had been so buried I could not admit my confusion even to myself. ...but my Jesus knew.  My anger was centered on two six feet two much older brothers who were intimidating and demeaning to me from the time I was born.  Both desperately needed women but both were abusive to women. It's not hard to figure out how those two behaviors feed into one another. Those two brothers showed up on nearly every church Board we ever endured. All that changed were the places and the faces.  As I listened to Joyce Meyer's story the other night of being sexually raped by her own father over two hundred times, I wondered if I could have survived without going completely insane. She is one "tough" woman, straight-forward and pragmatic. I too have a reputation of being a woman not to be messed with.  Yet both Joyce and other women like us have tender hearts that break for others.

One day my son Doug took me on a flight in his ultra light.  From somewhere deep inside me, high above the Texas terrain, a scream came out of me that caused Doug to nearly jump out of his skin and immediately start his descent to the ground.  He helped me disembark from his little grasshopper and stumble into the house where the family was gathered.  I sat in the midst of the most precious people in the world to me and cried and cried.  I, who had spent countless hours holding and comforting others as they cried and poured out their rage could not talk about what was hurting me. The Lord
sends to me grown men and women who have harbored unthinkable memories about attacks upon their bodies and souls, believing that nobody loves them enough to care about their pain. ...not even Jesus.  "If He did, where was He when the molestation was going on"?  is their question.  There are other kinds of molestation than sexual. Emotional and verbal are equally as damaging to the soul. 
 It took me a long time to trust even Jesus. I have a pastor friend who has written a fine book entitled: "Egoless Elders".  There is something that can happen to many men (and women) when they are given a position of  authority in an institution.  For years Ted  could not discern that controlling spirit and made some mistakes in judgment about leadership.  Ted Stone always thought the best of everybody's motives. That would be just fine in a perfect world. ...but it isn't.   I am not at all shocked by the increase in lesbianism and homosexuality.  Add pornography to the slime pit and no one is safe from its effects.

He has always understood when I could not embrace a scripture such as 'Come unto me, all you who were weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. When Ted and I team-counseled for many years I could detect the minute a husband came through the door whether or not his mission was to  prove that he was smarter than me and had no intention of listening to anything I might have to say. I walked out on more than one counseling session, leaving a wife, husband and my husband staring at a closed door. By His grace,  many of my closest friends are men. Now that I am ancient, I am no threat to any wife (Drat!).  Without the indwelling Christ I would have been an angry woman's libber.  Men in uniform are often the worst because that uniform and the institution behind it give an otherwise insecure little fellah the guts he needs to do his job.  I know beautiful exceptions to this statement:  ...Many, many exceptions.

Jesus had the power to kill those who killed Him, but opted to show them mercy.  Justice has yet to be served about what they did to Him, but it's coming. Oh, yes, it's coming and I want a ring-side seat at that last event. Satan continues to try to suck me back in to his dark hole of fear, guilt, shame and blame. There is only one Place of Safety: in His Word and in the arms of the One Who was and is the Toughest and Tenderest Man of All Time: The Man Christ Jesus.  Emmanuel.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Lady in the Lobby

We met her in a hotel lobby on the Sabbath.  Two days before Ted and I had fled from filthy, dirt and sand-covered Cairo, flew on a dilapidated Egyptian plane to Cyprus, a required stopover when leaving an Arab country to enter Israel.  At the bottom of the plane steps was a shallow vat of disinfectant through which we had to wade before stepping into the neutral island airport.  After a good night's sleep and a swim in the warm Mediterranean, there we were in a Tel Aviv hotel on a Sabbath afternoon. We wanted to proceed immediately to Jerusalem but quickly learned from the desk clerk that no transportation moves on the Sabbath in Israel.   Behind us a woman's lovely voice said: "I'm going to Jerusalem today.  Would you like to ride with me?"  We thankfully climbed into her car and for the next hour or so this Jewish lady's story gripped our hearts. She was a political Zionist that we soon realized had spotted us as possible monetary contributors to her cause of reclaiming Israel from the Arabs. ...through human efforts.   The only one of her German Jewish family who survived the Holocaust, she was freed by an RAF pilot who escorted her from Auschwitz and transported her to London.  Her own screams of horror that could finally be voiced awoke her into full consciousness as she ran down a busy thoroughfare.  In time, somehow she made her way to Jerusalem where she met many other Jewish Holocaust survivors who had escaped death in Hitler's ovens.

This Lovely Lady invited us to her flat for dinner. Her husband was lecturing in America at Yale so we were not privileged to meet him.  Around her table were fifteen or sixteen Jewish doctors from eight different countries.  The Israeli nationals do not have a way to meet the hundreds of thousands of people who travel around Israel by bus. We were travelling alone and were accessible. Ted and I knew we were being set up but anticipated that Jesus might have had something to do with it.  One by one, these brave survivors told us their story. With each, our hearts broke into more pieces.  Around 2 o'clock  in the morning, one doctor asked us;  "What brings you to Jerusalem?" ...and with that opening we told them our story.  Not one had ever met anyone who actually believed that Jesus was and is the Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world.  Slowly it dawned on us that in Israel, if one is not a Muslim or a Jew, one is assumed to be a "Christian".  That means that in their thinking Hitler was a Christian.  ...the Big Lie!  These people detected the greed of the Rabbis and wanted nothing to do with the synagogues.  They revealed that they had been studying the Old Testament together for five years and that soon they planned to open to the New.  I don't want to overdramatize this night, but it was a night only the Lord could have orchestrated.   ...a night I have never forgotten.  I would like to tell you that all dropped to their knees and invited Christ into their hearts. That didn't happen. I don't know what happened after that night which finally ended in the early hours of the morning.

The next day the Lady in the Lobby and I met to explore Jerusalem and to shop.  On my mantle are two brass candlesticks adorned with Israeli writing that she and I bought in the underground market of Jerusalem.  While walking and lunching I further gently explained to this Lovely Lady Who Jesus is and told her of His transforming work in my own personal life. She seemed to listen, but I don't know if she heard.  Upon our return home a week later I received a letter from her,  asking for our help in procuring  the release of two incarcerated Jewish doctors whose plane had been hijacked on its way to Beirut.  She assumed that Ted and I had leverage in high places. We did. ...with Jesus, but that's not who our Lady hoped we would contact for help. We were a poor pastor and wife who had been given a trip by a couple who noted that we were suffering from pastoral fatigue.  Did our Jewish friend ever receive Christ into her heart? I do not know. We communicated by letter for awhile but when she realized that we would and could not help free the doctors from an Arab prison, she stopped writing.  Oh, dear Lord, have you sent other messages of Your love to her?  Is she with You in Heaven? Will she be?

Before we had departed for this much needed rest we were ensnarled in a heart-rending war between the Calvinists and Armenians in our city.  Individuals and whole churches were being split apart. Our beloved church was dividing....the church in which we had invested every ounce of our resources, including our precious three children who hadn't signed up for the pastorate.   Ted and I, because of our place in the Christian community were sucked right into the middle of it all.  My heart was beyond troubled.   I was dangerously close to running, screaming in pain down a Bakersfield street. God took us half way around the world to give us (me) restored courage to press on. Ted never seemed to lose his courage. No matter how he was abused by power-grabbing elders or other minions of Satan, he never flagged.  To this day I will flee when Christian wars loom on the horizon.  I dropped my guard earlier this week and almost became enmeshed in a church conflict. Clearly, the Lord said to me: "Mind your own business."  I fled.

Sometimes I honestly do not care if I am a Pre, Post, or A Millenialist,   REformed  or DEformed theologian.  I know that I fully expect the Holy Spirit to feed His Truth into a precious little gathering of women in my living room who today will open our Bibles to Romans 9.  These women have been freed from the religious prisons of Buddhism, Shintoism, Hinduism and other man-made "ism's".  I do not believe that we need a seminary graduate or a pope or a pastor to complicate the Gospel that Jesus has made so simple that a child can understand it.


Thus let our songs abound, and every tear be dry
We're marching through Immanuel's ground,
We're marching through Immanuel's ground
And thus surround the throne,
And thus surround the throne.


Love, Jo

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Training for war

My training for war began as soon as I was born. My quiet grandma lived with us. When my Irish brothers threw heavy objects at each other, or dad swore at my mother and she screamed back in hysterics,  I ran to my grandma where she quietly rocked back and forth and buried my head in her lap. After she died,  I was alone on a remote farm with a drinking dad and an angry mother. As soon as I could I fled but I carried a boatload of guilt for abandoning my mother.  Many years later Ted and I brought my parents from that primitive Kansas farm to California.  Both became Christians at 75 years of age. Overnight my dad stopped drinking, smoking and swearing.  Kind Christians,  my tender Ted and our family loved my parents to Jesus.  When we moved to Texas my brother moved my parents to Kansas to be near him. After each visit to them in Kansas,  upon my return to our home in Houston I would go into our bathroom, close the door and scream into a towel from the pain of not being able to take care of my parents until they went to Heaven. We still had a daughter at home who deserved to have whatever pieces of her parents were left over from an exhausting ministry, fraught with joy and agony. ... all at the same time.  Could I have made better choices?  I have tortured myself over and over about that.  I honestly do not know.  Years later we opted for another pastorate.. ...a ministry that brought even worse emotional pain.  After three years and another merciless bludgeoning, Ted began another ministry here for the people we knew needed love and kindness.  I shut down, refusing to participate. I shocked myself, Ted and about a hundred people who were gathering in the local gym to be fed and loved.

One of the reasons the pastorates were bitter/sweet for me was that most of the time somebody was mad at somebody or even worse, were mad at Ted.  I agonized when people were mad at my sweet Ted who gave blood for every ministry. We both did. ...and so did our children. What hurts so badly is that they did not sign up for ministry, but were forced to sacrifice right along with us.  Twice, my Ted, their dad was treated like a criminal.  Ted never fought back,  nor did he defend himself. ...but attacks upon his character had to affect him deep in his soul.  I was quietly torn up inside most of our pastoral years,  but I could never tell anybody. ..except our wonderful Christian doctors who supplied me with sleeping pills, ... and my chiropractor who treated me for chronic neck pain. Ultimately, in Houston,  I went into a deep depression from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.  ...a  name now given for buried, unexpressed horror experienced in war.  I appear to be a pretty tough cookie, but I am a woman with a huge capacity for deep feelings.

Like a mother hen I do my best to protect young chickens from the ugliness that goes on in Christian circles. ...but I can't always pull that off.  Now that Ted is out of the pastorate I don't have to be involved in useless joy sappers, but I can't quite break the tendency to try to head off a fight or resolve one that's already in the second or third round.  Take Monday and yesterday:  Hours and hours were spent on the phone and on this computer either trying to extricate myself from a brewing church division or prevent another one from happening. The Spirit's steady reminder to "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, mind your own business and work with your hands" isn't easy to obey, but the Lord and I are working on it.  Paul said somewhere, "As much as is possible, live at peace with all men."   In full time ministry, it isn't possible. ...but the blessings?  Many of you who read this and contribute to my ministry of discipleship had no idea that any of the above happened.  Maybe you never did need to know. Up until today I have not been moved to tell you.  You are the ones who brought joy unspeakable into our lives, and you still do.

There are many ways to serve the Lord "full time" besides the pastorate.  I would never, ever encourage anyone to go into a pulpit ministry. ...the men, maybe. Paul didn't have a wife. We do not know why.  Maybe he did and she left him or died.  I can fully understand both. I did leave Ted when he started another pastorate after the church bludgeoning. It was the only way to get through to him that I could not live through another pastorate. Dying? Yes, I considered suicide, but knew that that would bring disgrace upon Jesus and agony upon my family.

Many a Christian servant's wife, and even some husbands have buried their faces in my lap. I am still here, living in my lovely mountain home and am able, now that I have a lady to cook for me to  welcome God's servants into my arms for rest and recovery.  Tuck that away in your thinking, for you may need to know that sooner rather than later. I do not charge for mine is a non-profit ministry, but people are welcome to contribute so I can pay my bills.  Faithful monthly contributors keep me afloat.

Friday, July 4, 2014

It only takes a spark....

From my deck, a  thousand feet below I am watching a half dozen hot air balloons rise in the air, observing people eating a pancake breakfast, noting the musicians and booth vendors setting up their paraphernalia to entertain the crowd that will soon arrive.  At 10 A.M. a stream of horses, Boy and Girl Scouts, decorated old cars,  dressed up in-patriotic-garb families,  bedecked dogs on leashes, fire engines with sirens screaming, police cars with loud speakers blaring and whoever else wants to be in the parade rather than watch it,  will pass by. That's a snapshot of life on this earth,  isn't it?  ...those in the parade and the rest who watch it.  For decades I have either headed up a parade or marched in it.  Now I watch the parade pass by through my binoculars, utterly delighted that I do not have to leave my deck to participate in life.

Do you want to take a trip back with me to the night of my graduation from high school?  You need not.   If you are still reading,  picture this:  ...a 17-year-old JoAnn Flynn, sobbing and stumbling along a dusty Kansas road.  My boyfriend, Ted had been forced to join the Navy the day before graduation to avoid being conscripted into the Army.  The darling German Shepherd puppy he had given me was killed that same day by a passing car on the road in front of our farmhouse.  Farm life was laced with  animal life and death; therefore my parents could not notice that my heart was broken. With Ted's leaving my only hope of escape from that primitive farm vanished on the train with him.  My parents and I had just returned from my high school graduation.  My class had but forty-some in it.  All were either farm kids who would be farmers all their lives or small town kids who had no plans to go on to college. There may have been scholarships available but neither my parents nor I spoke of that possibility.  My lonely life for seventeen years had afforded me time to read countless library books that fed my thirst for knowledge and the world around me. ...and don't forget Mrs. Ethel, my one-room country school first and second grade and fourth grade town school teacher who encouraged me to keep reading and learning.

That graduation night, as my parents and I arrived back at our farm home,  I worked up the courage to ask my dad if he would help me go on to college.   His response:  "No, I don't have that kind of money and besides,  if I did, the money would be wasted because you will marry some farm boy and you won't need an education for that!"   I ran out of the house, sobbing and stumbling along our dusty farm road. ... all night, screaming for somebody to listen.  Years later I realized that Somebody named "Jesus"  did listen,  but I had yet to hear His Name.  

Besides being a farmer, my dad was a self-taught mathematician who put food on our table by being the money clerk for farm auction sales and helping neighbors do their taxes. My dad had only a fourth grade school education, but he figured out what he needed to do to run a farm and a business.  I took advantage of  that business interest and asked if he would finance my going to Brown-Mackie Business School in the nearby little city of Salina, Kansas. Twang! He forked over $200 and I entered that school and graduated in a year, affording for me a needed credential  to apply to the State of Kansas for a job as a secretary at Kansas State College.  My hidden dream was to somehow become an actual student.   A young woman named Janet Ray from Wilsey, Kansas, the town close to our farm heard that I was in town and invited me to church.   I had been to church only once.  I accepted her invitation because I wanted to meet people. We walked into a store front with no steeple or sign that announced that it was a "church".   Inside were crammed-in young people sprinkled with a half-dozen adults, a Book in their laps, listening to a young man speaking with enthusiasm from that Book.  I was intrigued. The next Sunday my friend could not attend, so I went by myself.  Behind the makeshift pulpit was a different speaker.  His name was T.W. Wilson, whose name meant nothing to me.  I asked one of the adult men, Mr. Elmer Nelson why there was a different speaker.  His answer: "We adults are members of First Baptist Church. We have a burden to bring the Gospel to the students (...and oh, how I wanted to be a "student"  rather than a lowly secretary) so we rent this building. On Saturday night one of us travels to Kansas City and fetches the speaker for the Youth for Christ rally and brings him here to speak to students. You are hearing the cream-of-the-crop youth speakers from across the nation on Sunday mornings."  I didn't know what the "Gospel", the  "cream of the crop" or  "Youth for Christ" or "youth speakers"  were,  nor did I know that T.W. Wilson was Billy Graham's best friend and co-partner in ministry.  I had not heard the names of either of these men, so wasn't impressed.  What was impressive was the Name of Jesus.  I went up to T.W. Wilson and said, "I have never heard of this Jesus you are talking about. Who is He?"  "Sit down, young lady"...and he opened that Book to John 3:16 and 17 and in a matter of minutes I crossed from death to life-in-Christ.  The next Sunday I returned to this little gathering and the speaker was a lanky, drop-dead-handsome twenty-nine-year-old Billy Graham.

Fast forward:  Several months later Mr. Nelson invited me to go with his three-carloads of young people to Chicago to attend Moody Bible Institute's Founders Week....whatever in the heck that was. I went.  Billy was the speaker before thousands of Christian leaders from around the world.  Half way through the week Mr. Nelson took me to lunch with Billy.  These were Billy's life-changing words to me:  "Jo Ann, Mr. Nelson has been watching you.  He tells me that you are worth an investment. I am the new President of Northwestern Bible College in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  I want you to come to my school and I will see that you owe no tuition for a year".   Shock!  The next day I flew out of O'Hara airport, landed in Minneapolis, Helen and George Wilson,  Billy's financial Administrator and wife met me, gathered me into their arms and took me to the school where housemother "Mother R" gathered me into her arms....and the rest, as the saying goes is history.  I don't recall that I had ever been gathered into anybody's arms, except for the guys I had dated who had no interest whatsoever in serving me.   THESE "arms"  were the SERVANT ARMS OF JESUS and somehow I knew the difference.

Do I understand why the God Who made Heaven and Earth and everything in it had a plan for me?  Of course not.  I don't get that "chosen"  thing at all.  As a matter of fact, yesterday I was not prepared to teach Romans 9  (...but then, who is?)  so asked my girls for another week to prepare.  I actually know a pastor who called in sick rather than teach this chapter.

I have kept in touch with T.W. Wilson all these years until he went Home several years ago.  His words":  "Jo Ann, our ministry is frustrating because we keep moving on. You are one of the very few that write or call me and bless me, giving me courage to continue to shadow Billy, taking care of details he cannot possibly tend to. You have no idea what your words mean to me."

Several years ago I read a communication from Franklin, Billy's son, asking people to write his dear Dad and tell him what his ministry has meant to them.  I did, never expecting a response.  This week, I received this letter from Stephanie Wills, Billy's secretary:   "I had the privilege of reading to Billy Graham your recent letter to him.  At the age of ninety-five, macular degeneration makes it impossible to see to read his own mail now. You will never know what an encouragement letters like yours are to him in his later years. Your testimony is especially meaningful since it began so many years ago, and God has led and used you and your husband in your own ministry since those Northwestern days. Thank you for taking the time to write and tell him--and thank you for being such a blessing" .

For how many minutes did Billy personally touch my life? ...perhaps sixty,  at the most.  When he showed up at Northwestern, we would talk for a couple of minutes. ...maybe.  That was all.  He was launching his ministry then...a ministry that would reach at least a billion people.  Only our Lord knows how many.   His family says this about him: "He never knew he was Billy Graham". ...and I believe it.

Never underestimate what a few minutes of your time can mean to someone whose broken life you touch.  It only takes a spark to start a fire going. ... and what a segue that song provides for today's blog.

                                            PASS IT ON!

It only takes a spark to get a fire going
And soon all those around can warm up to its glowing
That's how it is with God's love once you've experienced it
To spread His love to everyone;
You'll want to PASS IT ON!

What a wondrous time is spring when all the trees are budding
The birds begin to sing; the flowers start their blooming
That's how it is with God's love, once you've experienced it
To spread His love to everyone; it's fresh like spring;
You'll want to PASS IT ON!

I want for you, my friend, this happiness that I've found
You can depend on Him; it matters not where you're bound
The Lord of Heaven has come to me; I want to PASS IT ON!

Love, Jo