Saturday, August 12, 2006

Billy Graham Parkway

Last week our taxi driver in Charlotte drove a part of our route to the hotel on Billy Graham Parkway. The name Billy Graham brings back many memories for me. I was raised in a very strict Baptist environment and Mr. Graham was considered a first cousin of God in the deep south of Texas.

In the airport at Charlotte while waiting on our return flight I took a lap around the airport magazine/book store. Staring at me from the cover of the most recent Newsweek was non other than Mr. Graham himself. I bought a copy and quickly read the interview with Graham.

A particular thought that was attributed to Mr. Graham has remained with me for a few days now. He made the comment that all of his life he has been training himself and others to prepare for death, but preparing for the elder years of life is not always taught as well. That’s a paraphrase, but accurate in context I think. Graham’s reference point for his comment regarding our preparation for death is obviously the preaching of the gospel and its embedded message of salvation. I can close my eyes and begin reciting the gospel. I have heard Graham’s powerful and remarkable version many times, delivered in his prime to thousands of listeners. I have heard other evangelistic preacher’s version many more times. One of my favorite phrases is that my mother has been to church more than Billy Graham. And if my mother was going you can bet I was taken with her until I was at least 17 years old. Now many years have passed in my life and I still have respect for Mr. Graham.

I know this has become an elaborate table setting, so I will move to some distinguishable point or observation.

I was saddened by this statement from Graham, because it exposes what in my mind can most charitably be called ‘the overlooking of something’. I don’t presume to call Mr. Graham to task. That is a risky and tricky business.

I do think the articulation of his reality that his own preparation for death is superior to his preparation for life in his elder years might give us all the desire to look at this statement in depth.

I’m not necessarily going to tackle it in any depth here. I am writing a book as I think I told you, but I do not intend to write it here. Further, I figure you have your own ideas about these things and I am interested in hearing your ideas.

It seems to me that this statement from Graham, seemingly innocuous or even slightly maudlin on his part reveals a weakness in the historic teaching of the gospel.

I believe that God intends for us, and that Jesus taught us on his behalf, that life and heaven are here and now. More specifically, I believe the Kingdom of Heaven can be found inside of us each. This is a different idea than Graham preaches. The standard gospel that we are here to serve in some degree of pain and suffering while we earn the reward of heaven promised upon our death doesn’t register with my own personal search and wanderings through the New Testament. I wish the gospel preachers, and they are very influential, would work more with the idea that heaven can be found today and is not a piece of pie spinning in our future sky. Maybe I wish for too much.

I believe every day can be fashioned as hell. Similarly each day we can look inside for heaven on earth. And this thinking requires some preparation for living don’t you see?

Preparation that Mr. Graham acknowledges is lacking in his elder years.

Perhaps I misunderstood the quote. Maybe I have spent the past few days thinking about this without understanding what he actually meant to imply.

What has occurred in my head in the interim has been an interesting process in any case. And again if I wrote all of it down, you would have to take my post on vacation with you; a sorry proposition at best.

No way to summarize my wandering. I guess its somewhat like a mountain hiker with Alzheimer’s. Lots of ground covered, I just can’t remember it all.

I do know this. Preparing to be alive is a primer for preparing to die. I’m not sure we can skip the first chapters of the textbook. I think this might be a version of God denying.

The floor is open.


DevilBlueDress said...

A certain cowgirl from Texas is asking for my help. To spread the word. She has a new place. It can be found by following me. Looking carefully at my site. Or email me. Add a new link. Leave the old.

Lynilu said...

Well, seven, you have really touched a familiar spot in me. Again. What a marvelous post!

I, too, was raised Baptist, although not as zealously as you. But it followed me as my family moved away from Texas in my early childhood and was certainly the springboard for my spiritual life.

Over the adult years of my life, I've shifted in my spiritual center, as you've probably noted. I would echo essentially what you say about heaven and the elder years, and I have learned that a significant number of my peers have, as well.(I also note younger ones are looking beyond the standard.) I'm finding that I am daily more at peace with where I am, who I am, and what I can and will be.

The process of spiritual growth is ongoing, preparing me for not only the stage of life we refer to as "death," but for everything before and following that. I can't express the inner peace I've come to experince. No words really go there. What I *can* say is that I haven't feared death (or the ensuing years of "old age") since I began to recognize that spirituality supercedes everything in this world, including what we are taught as children; that I have more control over my life process than I could have imagined in more limiting belief systems; my happiness and peacefulness, while not perfect, are strong and more wonderful than I would have dared to imagine.

Should children be taught what you and & were? Absolutely. It is the foundation, simple and necessary. Remember my word from above, "springboard"?

Is "having control" of my life spitting in the face of old beliefs? No, I think not. It just reflects a new level of understanding about the marvelous gifts we are given in life and *using* them in my personal spiritual growth.

Having peace and happiness here on earth is something that is sometimes discouraged by many traditional spiritual leaders. You mentioned your belief that God and Jesus intend for us to have life and heaven here and now. Yes, that and more. We are instructed many times to be joyous, to revel, to sing and dance, yet we put on our sober faces about life and God. What's with that!? What better way to sing our praises than be happy, to see the beauty around us, to find what brings peace to our lives, and to live our lives as fully as we know how? Life is wonderful!

We prepare for life by how we live it. We can celebrate heaven on earth by our own spiritual openness. Or we can chose to create and live in our own hell. I chose the former.

Thanks for making us think.

Seven said...

I think I should add your comment as an addenda to the post as you have fully understood the destination of my wandering. Yes, we seem to dance to common music. A very fine music. Dance on my friend; and do so with a smile. God's Peace.

Silent One said...

I really don't think anyone is really prepared for Death. Our own or anothers.

What we need to do is live in the here and now. I can not comment on the beliefs or teachings of Mr. Graham, I unfamiliar with it him.

Lynilu said...

seven, I guess I've been thinking about these matters for a very long time and I've covered a lot of dance floors. Most times the dancing has been wonderful. The not so good times were lessons in dancing with 2 left feet. Yet even in those times, I dance on . . . to quit dancing is unthinkable. Thank you, mon ami, for a nice spin on the floor. Your posts are so wonderful for making me stop and listen to that music. These days I get so busy and distracted that I forget to pay attention. But when I hear it, I smile. Peace for you, too.

Ilias- said...

I totally agree about living in the eternal now, and why create such a huge reward for suffering? Whatever we focus on multiplies.. or continues its pattern in our lives. If we focus on happiness or joy or love, truly focusing with our attention, it can and will multiply I believe. Why not create a huge reward for not suffering? Or a huge reward for living joyously. It's all up to us. So now that I've written it, I'd do well to live it. ;^) Thanks for the post, friend.

Deepak Gopi said...

Well written text.Nice pics .
Beautiful blog

Grant said...

You Christians are cute when you're not knocking on my door. I think you're all closing your eyes during the movie of life in the hopes someone will give you a ticket to the sequel. I, on the other hand, have decided to be immortal and will be laughing at your wormy corpses long after you are gone. So, yeah, try to get a little enjoyment out of life before you go. Don't adopt the puritan rule of life - "If it feels good, don't do it."

Although, I have to admit I do respect Billy Graham if for no other reason than he seems to live what he preaches, instead of using his religion as a way to get money and prostitutes.

Lynilu said...

seven, I just saw this quote and thought of how well it fits with our discussion:

"To believe is to become what you believe." -- June Jordan

patti_cake said...

I have to say Billy Graham is about one of the few evangelists that I have any respect for. I am not a baptist and I don't believe that dancing or anything that feels "good" is a sin. I believe we are all here to live our lives and try to be decent human beings and treat our fellow man as best we can. I fear not many people are well-prepared for their twilight years.

Enemy of the Republic said...

I wanted to comment on this before, but I was busy. I had some issues once with Graham because of his failure to defend civil rights and the business with Nixon, but that article (I get that mag) showed me that all of us can look at our past, preacher or not, and say: I was wrong. It took a lot of guts for him to do that, and he raised himself higher in my esteem. I will be sad when Rev. Graham passes; he was a true man of integrity who never used his position for gain. I didn't know you were raised Baptist, but I am glad to see that your faith is still meaningful to you. I have great respect for the things you write.

Rob said...

Dear EOTR:
You are so right. And I think that is what Graham is getting to when he says "Get prepared for the next life." If you can't forgive yourself for mistakes, how can you forgive others? Once you can do that, you will be received through grace by your creator. It's your faith in that which will give you eternal peace. The alternative is incomprehensable. I think his 'preparation for death' is similar to the baptism. Wash away the old decrepid self so you can begin anew. There is still time.

Seven said...

EOTR and FATTY write a blog together called Live, Love and Ponder. I bet you would enjoy it. It's very good and thought provoking. It's here:

Enemy of the Republic said...

I've been meaning to ask you, Seven, if you wanted to join up with us. I know Fatty would welcome you, as would I. Rob too is welcome, but he'd need a blogspot identity to post, but he can always comment. By the way, Rob, thanks for visiting.

Seven said...

That is very flattering! I don't guess I know your process. Is it a free-for -all...publish what we think worthy of discussion...or is their a moderator in place that approves posts....I know I'm painfully unknowing, but I'm new at this blogging thing so I have to ask a lot of questions.

Enemy of the Republic said...

What you would have to do is send me your email address--maybe it is already on your profile. Mine is Then I send you an email inviting you to join. You either accept or decline. There is a link you cut and paste that will be included in the invitation. If you don't want to write to me directly, Live Love Ponder has its own email address as well; I'm just not always good about checking it.

st said...

Our culture is not educated on aging like some others, our culture is so focused on the getting and keeping of things and power, that releasing responsibility upon aging is seen as a negative. He has turned over the reigns of his empire to son Franklin and released much of the responsibility. Could that be some of the origins of his thoughts? Mr. Graham once made the statement that he knew how to get people to the alter, but didn’t know what to do with them after that. Maybe this is a parallel to how he has lived his life for surely, he is at the alter of God now.
If heaven exists on Earth, and it is to be found in your own heart, then the Grace offered in the Bible seems to exist. How else could our hearts be whole enough for heaven without God’s Grace of forgivness no matter what, when, where or why? I have spent little time in the Baptist church but agree they frequently preach about a God of retribution. I will stick to my God of inclusion and joy like the one from our hymnal.

Lord of the Dance
I danced in the morning when the world was begun,
And I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun,
And I came down from heaven and I danced on the earth,
At Bethlehem I had my birth.
Dance, then, wherever you may be;
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he.
And I’ll lead you all wherever you may be,
And I’ll lead you all in the dance, said he.

Seven said...

This is a thoughtful and welcomed reading and response. Thank you for the valued input.