MAR 1, 2018 Devotional: “The Preacher from the Dairy Farm”

Lately, I’ve been binge watching a new network I discovered among the countless cable channels that I normally skip over.  The network is called “Destination America”…have you heard of it?  My sensible side says you’re not missing anything if you haven’t tuned in yet.  But, if it’s a rainy afternoon and March Madness hasn’t started yet, then check it out.

The lineup of shows includes titles such as:  UFO’s: Uncovering the Truth, Kindred Spirits, Terror in the Woods, Mountain Monsters, Killing Bigfoot, Paranormal Survivor, and Ghostly Encounters.  Interested yet?

Maybe not.

There’s a world of unexplained stuff that happens in our world….and I’m not sure any of these shows are going to solve them.  But, some of the shows are entertaining, to say the least.

In my family, only my youngest son, Hill, will join me on the couch to watch these scary shows, much to his mom’s uneasiness.  So far, he hasn’t woken up in the middle of the night.  I promise to include him in moderation.

We actually got a good laugh at the story line for Mountain Monsters the other day.  And if I fully understood the story, I’d probably explain it here.  But that’s just not the case.

How do we explain the inexpiable, though?  Part of me thinks that God uses the “head-scratcher” times to draw us closer to Him, as a way to guide us along a path towards “truth”.

Last week, at my men’s fellowship group, I asked the gathering to share their individual thoughts about the passing of Reverend Billy Graham (earlier that week).  The responses ranged from “no impact, really, on my life” to “I became a Christian by watching Billy preach to the masses.”

But the most interesting response came from “Jonathan” who lives on a piece of land in Charlotte that was on or very near to the original dairy farm that Billy Graham grew up on as a child.

Much has been written over the years about Rev. Graham, his life in ministry, and especially the impact he had on varying degrees on several US presidents.  What’s fascinating to me, however, are the stories of his upbringing, his early life on his parent’s farm here in Charlotte.  I read recently that Billy would wake up early in the morning around 3 am and would milk 20 cows on the farm before school.  Then, after school, he would come home and milk another twenty!  Imagine that…..!

His parents were “pious Presbyterians”, according to one author, who led all the Graham children in prayer before every meal and insisted they learn a new Bible verse every day.  This religious rigor appealed to Billy, even at a young age.  And with Charlotte becoming a frequent stopping point for revivals, he became more drawn to the more evangelical style of preaching.  Billy would often practice some of the same preaching styles of those evangelicals in the quiet areas around the farm such as the tool shed, where he’d preach to oil cans and lawnmowers, or paddle down a creek nearby to relay a message of repentance to snakes and alligators.

That’s also where my friend, Jonathan, comes back into this story.  Jon explained to our group that Billy Graham also used to walk out to the cow pastures and practice preaching to the cows gathered in the shade.  And Jonathan said that there are many times when he’s outside at their home where he can feel Rev. Graham’s presence.  Remember earlier that said that Jonathan’s home now resides near (or on) what was formerly the Graham’s family farm!

Do I believe in the Bigfoot stories on the cable network?  Probably not.  But do I believe that God’s presence is alive near my friend, Jonathan’s home?  Absolutely, even it remains largely unexplainable to me!

Maybe Billy Graham said it best when he said:

I’m okay with not knowing all those answers.

Tomorrow, the Reverend Graham will be laid to rest in a private ceremony here in Charlotte.  His life, his story and his Christian faith, are tremendous guide rails for our lives today.  Critics of Reverend Graham will point to some of his beliefs that were considered controversial in the day.  But mostly, Reverend Graham’s life demonstrates his desire to share the gospel ….  and only the gospel.

“I’m just going to preach the Gospel and am not going to get off on all these hot-button issues,” Graham said. “If I get on these other subjects, it divides the audience on an issue that is not the issue I’m promoting. I’m just promoting the Gospel.”

Some might say these are lessons for today.

My prayer this week is that we take a moment to honor Billy Graham’s legacy of preaching the gospel, the Good News, to the thousands.  Perhaps, like me, you’ll take time to dig a little more into Graham’s life, and see where his lessons can apply to our every day lives.

Well done, faithful servant!