By Rebecca Price Janney, Feb 22 2018 02:23PM
Yesterday one of the most beloved figures in recent American history died. Billy Graham had almost made it to 100. There are so many reasons why people admired him. He was humble, straightforward, honest, kind, and oh, so successful. Because he touched millions of lives, millions of memories and stories are filling airwaves, print, and the internet today. I thought I’d add my own.
I never met Billy Graham, but his organization played a big part in my path to become a published author. No longer the teenage wunderkind covering the Phillies, writing about other sports figures, politicians, and celebrities, in my twenties I sensed a call to inspirational writing. In 1986 I learned about a Billy Graham writing conference in Minnesota and decided to drive out there with a friend. The contacts I made led to my writing regular magazine articles, including several for his Decision publication.
In the early 1990s, the BGEA contacted me. They were going to publish an anthology of favorite articles from Decision. The book would be called Shaped by God’s Love, and they wanted to include a story I’d written about Joseph from the Old Testament. At last, my work would be in a book! In turn, that door helped open another, to my first novels, which were published three years later.
Although I never knew Billy Graham, I came into contact with people who did. They were so refreshing in their attitudes toward him. They clearly respected and admired him, but they didn’t worship the ground he walked on. They knew he was just like them, a sinner saved by God’s grace, with a set of talents meant, not for his own glory, but for God’s, and for the good of people everywhere.
Yesterday as I reflected on the gratitude I have for getting a start in inspirational writing through Graham’s organization, I picked up a copy of his autobiography. The quote on the back cover brought tears to my eyes:
“I have often said that the first thing I am going to do when I get to Heaven is to ask, ‘Why me, Lord? Why did You choose a farmboy from North Carolina to preach to so many people, to have such a wonderful team of associates, and to have a part in what You were doing in the latter half of the twentieth century?’
“I have thought about that question a great deal, but I know also that only God knows the answer.”