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PRAYER: When God says, “No!”


MY PRAYER: Father,
I’ve wanted relationships and possessions
That You have not intended for me to have.
I have wanted them so badly that
I’ve come before You repeatedly—
Pleading, begging, whining, and carping—
Beseeching You to grant my desires.
But all You have done is say, “No.”
Refusing to accept Your answer as final,
I have continued my relentless badgering,
Insisting that You make my will be Your own.
In my willfulness and stubbornness, I maintained
That right was wrong, and wrong was right,
While deceiving myself into actually believing
My purposes were noble, honorable, and altruistic.
In my foolishness, I have done my best
To convince myself that my way has been righteous,
But You remained unmoved, refusing to acquiesce.
Still unwilling to accept Your will over my own,
I manipulated events until frustration
And exhaustion finally overwhelmed me,
But You never budged or wavered in Your decision.
 
Now, at the end of all my peevish fretting,
I bow my knee and accept Your decision.
“No” it is, and “No” it shall be forevermore.
There are still parts of me that regret this,
But You are Almighty God, and I am not.
Now that I have resubmitted myself
To Your leadership, rather than to my own,
I have begun to view my situation differently.
No longer reluctant to be submissive, I acknowledge
That Your way is superior to my own,
Which I should have done from the beginning,
Amen.
 
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BILLY GRAHAM—SECOND STORY: Although placed in the fictional setting of my novel, I was on the platform sitting thirty feet away from Billy Graham, during one of his Crusade events at the L.A. Coliseum. I was the guest of Cliff Barrows and Johnny Lenning. Here’s the story:
 
The summer following our meeting in Minneapolis, to show their appreciation for all I had done, when Billy Graham held his Crusade in L.A., Johnny Lenning and Cliff Barrows invited me to attend. I sat on the platform, right next to the huge podium, where the religious leaders, movie stars, pro jocks, and choir sat—just a few feet away from Billy Graham.
 
Seeing the mass of humanity at the L.A. Coliseum was as exciting as it was surreal. I listened to every word Billy spoke to the spiritually hungry crowd. When he finished and asked people to come forward, I was disappointed and thought that few would respond. To me, his address was weak—rambling aimlessly from one point to another. It seemed like he had just thrown it together, spending very little time in preparation.
 
Finally, a few people came forward—followed by a few more. Then hundreds came—followed by an avalanche of penitents who made their way up front. In all, at least 7,000 people came forward that night.
 
Johnny turned to me and said, “I knew this would be a strong showing. Billy was really good tonight.”
 
I was shocked but nodded my head in agreement—as I watched multitudes made their way forward.
 
As I watched the sea of humanity respond from my elevated position, I actually saw my ex-wife making her way forward with tears streaming down her face. I could not have been more surprised. At first, I couldn’t believe it was really Barbara. During our marriage, she had never shown the least bit of interest in spiritual things—not once.
 
Seeing the sorrow on her face, I was deeply touched and started to cry myself, but I didn’t want her to see me. I didn’t even know she was in L.A. She didn’t know I was there either. We hadn’t spoken for several months, although someone told me she had recently experienced a nasty break up with her jealous, possessive boyfriend—one that necessitated a restraining order. Hearing this didn’t surprise me, but I was relieved she was rid of him. He was nothing but trouble, and I knew it.
 
To remain unnoticed, I moved behind the choir, as they accompanied George Beverly Shea, who sang the chorus, “Just as I am,” while thousands continued to come forward. Standing behind them made me less visible, while also putting me in the midst of the music, which I had come to love. Barbara came within twenty feet of me, but she never noticed me.
 
This was her time with God, and I knew it. It had nothing to do with me. I didn’t want to interfere in any way, which would have been inappropriate. Nevertheless, I was deeply touched to witness the mother of my children putting her life in the hands of Almighty God—accepting Christ as her personal Savior. Who wouldn’t be moved by something as tender as this?
 
As I drove away several hours later in my rental car, having stayed until nearly everybody left, I internalized a valuable lesson—one I’ve never forgotten. A Bible verse kept racing through my mind; “When I am lifted up, I will draw all men unto myself.” That’s what happened at the Coliseum. God did the drawing—not the persuasiveness or eloquence of the messenger. It’s never the other way around.
 
Billy Graham lifted up the Lord, and the people came—thousands of them—including the only woman I had ever truly loved. His eloquence had nothing to do with people’s responses. He told the audience God loved them and wanted a relationship with each one of them—nothing more. It was the only thing he did well, but it was the key to everything that followed. Once again, I started to cry, which was hazardous, since I was driving 70 mph. on Highway 101, but I couldn’t help myself.
 
I also realized something else. In my bitterness about Catholicism, I had failed to provide the spiritual leadership my family needed to survive, leaving a terrible void in the process. Barbara used Jeffrey to fill that empty space. Acknowledging that I was more culpable in our divorce than I had ever been willing to admit, I continued to cry, purifying my soul as I drove. I knew that before getting involved with another woman, I needed to work on becoming a stronger spiritual leader. If I didn’t, I would end up with another mess on my hands instead of what I truly desired.
 
As I reminisced about that evening in L.A. hundreds of times throughout the years, I came to realize something else. When ministries present nothing but the Gospel, wonderful things happen. When they “promote” Christ, nothing good comes from it. In fact, all hell breaks loose—literally. Lifting Christ up works—pushing Jesus doesn’t. This may seem like it’s just a subtle difference, but it isn’t. It is an entirely different thing.
 
Jack Watts
 
FEET OF CLAY: Available at B&N, Amazon, and http://mcgeeandme.net/books/feet-of-clay
 

FEET OF CLAY—I knew Billy Graham. Here is one of two stories I have that relate to him. Although part of my novel, it is based on a real experience. Here it is:
Obviously, launching Family Values was quite an adventure, but this wasn’t my only duty—not by a long shot. Solidifying the base for Truthful Living was also my responsibility. To ensure its continued viability, I needed a large client, which the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association definitely was. Six months after launching Family Values, I contacted one of the people I had met at NRB—Johnny Lenning, the producer of The Hour of Decision, Billy Graham’s weekly radio program.
Being friendly, forthright, and genuine, I liked Johnny the minute I met him, and we remained friends for the remainder of his life. Working out of Greenville, South Carolina, with Cliff Barrows, Billy’s right-hand man and master of ceremonies for his worldwide crusades, I pitched the devotional to both Johnny and Cliff one day when I drove over to have lunch with them. Cliff thought Truthful Living would be a perfect magazine to use as a monthly communications tool for the entire Graham donor base, which was enormous.
Spearheading the effort, Cliff discussed the matter at length with Billy Graham, who agreed it was a great idea—especially since it would help people develop a better grasp of God’s Word, which was a high priority for the evangelist. To get the ball rolling, Billy wrote Cliff a letter, stating that he wanted to produce a Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) version of Truthful Living.
It seemed like we had everything in place to add the premiere ministry in the world to Living Water’s client base. Knowing how valuable the signed letter from Billy was, Cliff intended to use it—like the Pope’s imprimatur—to ensure the project came to fruition.
Cliff asked Donald Duncan and me to meet Johnny Lenning and him in Minneapolis, where we would begin implementation, after getting a sign off from George Wilson, the business manager for BGEA. Salivating at the prospect, Donald and I immediately agreed, realizing this would be the biggest sale we would ever make.
On the appointed day, we boarded a plane in the middle of winter, heading for the Twin Cities to finalize the agreement. When we arrived—amid snow, ice, and biting wind—I had a great reminder of why I never regretted leaving Boston. When Johnny and Cliff met us, they were sporting grins of impending victory, which were only surpassed by our own. We headed off in a taxi for the BGEA headquarters. As we drove through the city, Johnny informed us that George Wilson was a gruff curmudgeon, and Cliff should be the one to do most of the talking, which was fine with us.
Arriving at BGEA headquarters, we were ushered into George’s office, where we all sat at a medium-sized table. Unlike some of the palatial ministry offices I had visited, Dr. Graham’s headquarters were meager by comparison—even his office, which he used sparingly.
After exchanging pleasantries, Cliff took charge of the meeting and said, “George, I’ve met with Billy, and he wants to make Truthful Living available to our donor base. The list of our best supporters is about 300,000; isn’t that right?”
George nodded that Cliff’s estimate was correct. As this was transpiring, I caught Donald’s eye. Both of us fought hard to play it cool, knowing what a financial boon this would be for Living Water.
Continuing with his presentation, Cliff said, “These donors are the ones Billy and I think should receive the monthly magazine.”
George nodded once more, signifying he understood Cliff’s intent.
“With the Crusade in Los Angeles being less than a year away, we thought this would be a good time and place to launch Truthful Living.” Looking directly at George, Cliff asked, “What do you think?”
Devoid of emotion, George replied matter-of-factly, “That would be a good time to start the magazine, if we were going to use it, but we’re not.”
“But Billy wants us to use it,” Cliff challenged—with just a hint of annoyance. “He wrote this letter for me to give to you. It says he wants to have a BGEA version of Truthful Living.” With this, Cliff handed George the letter—like it was a bearer bond ready to be redeemed.
Taking a minute to look around for his glasses, which he found under a pile of papers on his desk, George returned to the table and read the letter carefully, handing it back to Cliff, when he finished.
Thinking the letter would override George’s obstinacy and seal the deal; Cliff repeated confidently, “I think we should start the devotional at the Los Angeles Crusade. Don’t you agree?”
With all eyes looking intently at George, he replied, “No I don’t; and we’re not going to use Truthful Living, Cliff.”
“But Billy,” Cliff retorted imploringly; but George interrupted, not allowing Cliff to protest any further.
With a wave of his hand, speaking authoritatively, George responded. “I don’t care what Billy wants. We’re not going to use it—period. That’s the end of it.” With that, George folded his arms brusquely, hunkering down defiantly like a bulldog, daring Cliff to protest further, which he didn’t do.
Stunned and deflated—with nothing more to say—the meeting ended awkwardly soon thereafter. As we walked out of the building, Johnny and Cliff were visibly shaken. Both had tears in their eyes as they apologized for how badly we had been treated in George’s office. Donald and I tried unsuccessfully to console both of our benefactors but with little success.
Cliff, who had been the only one treated badly, promised to call Billy and have George straightened out. After that, we would be able to get the project back on track. Thanking Cliff and Johnny for their efforts, I promised to follow up with them a week later. With this, Donald and I left, headed back to warmer weather in Georgia.
I called a week later, and Johnny informed me George had killed the Truthful Living project. Taking a deep breath, Johnny added, “I’m sorry you had to fly all the way to Minneapolis and waste your time, Cole. I really am. George wouldn’t budge, and Billy won’t override him. Truthful Living is as dead as a doornail.”
“That surprises me, Johnny,” I replied. “I didn’t realize George had that much power.”
With a hint of irritation in his voice, Johnny agreed. “I guess George knows Billy better than we do.” As our conversation came to a close, Johnny added, “Please tell Donald how sorry Cliff and I are that we wasted his time, too.”
“Of course,” I said graciously. “I’ll do it just as soon as we get off the phone.” Hanging up, I realized we had just missed the largest sale we would ever have.
As I thought about the entire situation, I couldn’t believe Billy Graham didn’t have the gumption to make a decision for his own ministry and stick to it. It made me think he was a weak leader and not nearly as strong as everyone considered him to be.
I remembered how people used to extol the virtues of the continuity of the BGEA leadership team, marveling at how long they remained intact without any major turnover in personnel. I knew the reason why. It was because they all lived in different parts of the country. If Cliff had worked in the same office building with George every day, their working relationship might have lasted a year—not decades.
I believed Billy’s response to George indicated how feeble the evangelist’s leadership was for quite a while, but I eventually changed my mind. Over time, I came to view what happened from a different perspective. What I had initially considered to be weakness I eventually viewed as strength.
Neither Billy, Johnny, nor Cliff had much business savvy. George did, and he was good at it. It was his responsibility to run the day-to-day operations of the ministry; and BGEA always paid its bills on time, which was a rarity for Christian ministries, including Living Water. George had his own ideas about how to develop the BGEA donor base and was close to implementing an entirely different strategy—one that couldn’t utilize Truthful Living.
Because Billy had given George the responsibility of running the ministry’s business operations, he simply allowed George to do his job without interference—just like President Reagan routinely allowed the members of his Cabinet to run their departments. Reagan provided overall direction but rarely interfered with day-to-day decisions, which proved to be an effective leadership model. Billy had simply done the same thing, allowing George to do his job without overriding him.
Billy wanted to use Truthful Living—no doubt about it, but he allowed his desires and his decision to be reversed. Such behavior was something most Christian leaders would never permit. To do so would be an affront to their stature and their authority, which—in their eyes—would amount to challenging God’s will. They would have insisted on using Truthful Living—even if doing so proved to be unwise. I witnessed such willful behavior repeatedly over the years and came to recognize it as part of the narcissistic ministry culture that was so prevalent in America.
George did what he thought was best for the ministry, which was at cross-purposes with the idea we proposed for BGEA to implement. That he was secure enough in his position, and in his ability to check Billy’s desires, revealed quite a bit about both of them. It showed strength of character that I didn’t recognize at first but came to understand. When I did, I admired George for sticking to his guns. I also had high regard for Billy, who allowed George to make the decision he believed was best for the ministry. Eventually, my respect for Dr. Graham increased because he didn’t override George and allowed the project to die, rather than impose his will on the situation, even though it was not in Living Water’s best interest.
The strength of leadership displayed by Billy was something few Christian leaders would even consider. Allowing a subordinate to question or countermand a directive is rare within Christian ministries. Most of the superstars lack the strength of character necessary to do so. Only a few have enough humility and maturity to permit themselves to be checked. Most prefer to behave like the Queen of Hearts, saying, “Off with their heads,” dismissing those who challenge either their wisdom or their decisions. This happens routinely, regardless of how capricious or ill advised the decision might be.
Jack Watts
FEET OF CLAY: available at B&N, Amazon, or http://mcgeeandme.net/books/feet-of-clay

MY PRAYER: Father,
I feel like a wounded gazelle,
Unable to fend for myself,
As hungry beasts surround me.
My demise seems certain,
And there is no place to hide.
My friends, those who call upon Your name,
Are nowhere to be found—
Just when I need them the most.
My love has abandoned me for another,
Never looking back—not even a glance.
I am undone and badly crushed,
And those who seek what little is left,
Fight over the scraps of my being—
Over the pieces of my shattered life.
How long will You leave me exposed—
Vulnerable to ravenous predators—
To those who seek to destroy me?
Tell me, Lord, when will it be enough?
When will You protect Your wounded child?
When will You move Your mighty hand to help?
If You do not rescue me soon, there may be nothing left.
My head, which was once proud, now hangs in despair,
And my countenance is greatly diminished.
Terrifying apprehensions have overwhelmed me,
And dread of the future has become my portion in life.
I fear that my adversaries will have victory over me.
Father, provide me with a way through this thorny maze,
To a place that is safe and secure—
Free from turmoil, free from pain,
Free from heartache, and free from despair,
Amen.

PRAYER: When Life Goes Wrong


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MY PRAYER: Father,
Unlike most, I know I have it all together.
I am a person of substance and value.
People listen when I speak,
As words of wisdom roll mellifluously
From the essence of my being.
My life is an example for others to emulate.
At least, this was what I have considered to be true.
 
This is when You came and shook my foundation,
Which was not built upon anything meaningful.
Knowing my vulnerabilities and insecurities,
You rocked my world like nobody else could.
In an instant—in a flash, I was undone,
Realizing I was not the person I thought I was.
I was not the man I claimed to be.
When You revealed me to myself,
I stood naked—laid bare before Your eyes,
Unable to hide my frailties from Your scrutiny,
From the truth of who I really was.
Broken, embarrassed, and unnerved,
I recoiled, consumed with shame.
 
Those who claimed their loyalty abandoned me,
While my enemies delighted at my misfortune.
In an instant, Your blessings—the outward manifestation
Of all that I thought had value—vanished before my eyes.
No longer confident, I became fearful and apprehensive.
Recognizing the weakness in my foundation,
You have shaken me, revealing me to myself,
And I am lost, completely undone.
 
Father, when will this nightmare end? When will it be enough?
When will Your heavy hand of discipline subside,
Restoring me to a life of peace, purpose, and tranquility?
Will Your pruning cease, or will it last for a lifetime?
Only You know; only You have the answers.
Be merciful to me, Lord, for I have learned my lesson.
O, how I regret my arrogant, self-serving ways,
Which I was too foolish and arrogant to acknowledge.
I beseech You, Father, hasten the day of my restoration,
Lest my sorrows overwhelm me and leave me without hope,
Amen.
 

COMMO The struggle continues and relentlessly intensifies. It is the intention of the Radical Left to take down President Trump, regardless of what it requires to accomplish the task. With the recusal of Attorney General Sessions to thwart the goal of Obama’s Deep State operatives, the leftwing media, and useful liberal fools who lack discernment, Trump is fighting to Make America Great Again, while simultaneously having to defend himself from non-existent criminal behavior.
Is realizing this disheartening? Hell no! It just means we have to strong, vigilant, and resolute. There is no rest for us. We simply must fight the good fight daily, but we are up to the task. Believe me, we are.
Jack Watts #MAGA #FullOfShiff

PRAYER: Pain & Anguish


MY PRAYER: Father,
In my pain and my anguish—
When my heart was broken
And darkness threatened to overwhelm me—
I felt so lost and abandoned, but I wasn’t.
Despite my anxiety and my trembling heart,
You were there, never leaving my side,
Diligently working within my heart,
Stripping me of all of my pretense,
Scourging me of all of my arrogance,
And revealing each of my self-serving ways,
Which have made my life a wasteland.
For so long, I had no concern or awareness
About anything You desired for my life.
My only purpose was to find relief from my torment,
But Your determined pruning has run far deeper
Than anything I could have imagined or even conceived.
I thought my anguish would never end,
And I would never be able to smile at the future again.
In my distress, I enumerated the desires of my heart,
Repeatedly asking You to grant my wishes,
But You never would, which compounded my sorrow.
What I have gained through my loss, though,
May have been the most valuable lesson of my life.
Out of my pain and ennui, You have raised me up,
Placing my feet on solid, immovable ground,
Strengthening me with power in the inner man,
And made me sound at the core of my being.
No longer fearful or timid, I am peaceful and confident.
Instead of filling my hours with fretful apprehensions,
My state of mind has become peaceful and serene.
None of this would have taken place,
If You had not changed my heart’s desire,
Irreversibly transforming my perspective.
Without Your loving, consistent attentiveness,
I would never have learned my lessons.
Instead, I would have been destined
To repeat my mistakes endlessly,
Like an unreasoning animal
Rather than like a beloved child of the King,
Amen.