Bottom line, Billy Graham was a farm boy who became a preacher.
But his death is obviously a big deal. Because his life was a big deal.
How many preachers have been on Americans' "Ten Most Admired" list more years than any other person? What was it about him that gave him the unofficial title, "America's Pastor"?
I haven't heard the song for years. But recently the chorus keeps playing in my head.
"We go on hurting each other."
It was a huge '70s hit for The Carpenters. But lately it seems it could be our national theme song.
Cyber-bullying so brutal it's driving teenagers to suicide. Heartless cruelty at school and on social media. "Me Too" victims, scarred and shamed by sexual harassment and abuse by exploitive men. Political vitriol and horrific crimes that suggest the evening news should be "R" rated.
Every year, about this time, Linus comes marching on stage with his trusty blanket. And he uses a passage from the Bible to help poor ol' Charlie Brown understand "what Christmas is really all about."
..."And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in the manger."
Until recently, I had no idea how loaded those words were.
Every two seconds. That's how often someone in the U.S. has their identity stolen.
Like our friend who had her purse stolen in a restaurant. The next day massive charges were mounting up on her credit card - in Argentina! These days she could lose her credit card without ever leaving the house. Online.
But there's a more devastating identity theft than the financial kind. It's when you feel like your worth as a person has been ripped from you.
I had just finished speaking at a conference when a lady came up and began to pour out the trauma of her life. Her conclusion:
"They've totally stolen my identity!"
Her best friend has turned against her. Her husband is divorcing her. Her children have totally rejected her. Wife. Mother. Friend. What's left?
"My Summer Vacation."
As children, that was the predictable composition assignment we'd get each fall when we got back to school. I filled paragraphs with great memories. Then as parents, my wife and I had sort of a "mission statement" for our vacations - "Making memories!"
Of course, not all summer memories are something people would like to write about. Because there are memories we wish we could forget.
"We may never know why this happened."
That's the usual reaction when another "senseless" shooting leaves its trail of death and heartbreak. Not this time.
The vengeful gunman in last week's horrific rampage near Santa Barbara, California left a hate-filled, 141-page manifesto to explain it. Three were stabbed to death, three sorority girls shot to death, 13 injured. It was one student's self-described "day of retribution."
"My Twisted World" is, in part, a journal of growing romantic and sexual frustration. Girls went for other guys but not for him. Others were having sex while he was an unintentional virgin. Frustration morphed into loneliness, then desperation, then a hellish personal agenda of destroying what had hurt him.
In the midst of the subsequent discussions about gun control and mental illness, few are addressing his convoluted ideas about love and sex and women. Lies that permeate our culture. Our hopes. Our expectations.
They're lies I'm all too familiar with. From knowing so many who've bought these lies. And feel worthless and rejected. Often driven to withdrawal, bitterness, or self-pity. Some lash out. Some just decide to die.
They're wrong ideas that need to be exposed. They're hurting too many.
1. Sex and love give you worth.
That seems to be what the California mass shooter believed. Along with millions of people who've been bombarded with a Hollywood story line that holds up romantic love as the ultimate happy ending. The ultimate validation that you're worth something.
But, as many can attest, they got used, not loved. Like the teenage girl who called for advice about whether to give in to her boyfriend's pressure to have sex. She hadn't dated much...she was a virgin...but she really didn't want to lose him.
I told her she'd probably lose him anyway once she gave in - and lose something she could never get back. But he made her feel valuable. She gave him what he wanted. He moved on. She said, "I thought I'd feel worth more if I did it. I don't. I feel more worthless than ever."
If you're counting on love or sex to give you worth, you're pouring your money into a vending machine that can't give you what you paid for.
2. A man proves his manhood by conquering a woman.
The Bible says we're all "made in the image of God" (1). It commands young men to "treat the younger women as sisters, with absolute purity" (2). So using them - for your pleasure, your ego, your satisfaction - diminishes both you and her.
A guy doesn't prove his manhood by conquering a woman. He proves it by being a man women are safe with. Respected. Protected. Unviolated.
3. Love and sex will make you fulfilled.
Just ask the countless people who believed the lie. The most passionate love, the greatest sex still leave you with that haunting whisper in your soul.
"Someone's missing." Someone is. That's Someone with a capital S.
A boyfriend...a girlfriend...a lover...a husband or wife - they just don't fill the hole in the human heart. They can't. Because God says He has "planted eternity in the human heart" (3). And nobody on earth can fill that eternity vacuum.
That takes God Himself inhabiting the human heart. The One who gave you your worth before you were born. The One who restored the worth our sin had stolen by sending His Son Jesus to build a bridge to get to Him. A bridge in the shape of a cross.
The deep hunger of a restless heart can only be satisfied one way.
By the Love that heart was made for.
During this year’s NCAA basketball “Final Four” season, billionaire Warren Buffett offered $1 billion to anyone who filled out the perfect bracket (correctly picking all the NCAA game winners).
He did that because he knew no matter how well you know sports, your chances of picking a perfect bracket are, according to UMKC math lecturer Ari Bavel, 9.2 quintillion to one. You’re literally more likely to be mauled by a shark than nail this thing! Why is it so hard to pick the perfect bracket? Because sometimes the “experts” are wrong. Sometimes the underdog wins.
Dear Justin -
I'm a grandfather. I've got six grandsons - can't believe it! One is almost your age.
So when I read about your speeding trouble and saw you in a jail jumpsuit last week, my grandfather's heart was sad.
I know you've gotten it all from people. Affection. Attack. Sympathetic. Snarky.
Turn Around, Don't Drown!
As I’m writing, people in 24 states are watching the water rise. Flash flood warnings or watches as the rain keeps falling.
We’ve been in some of those monsoons the past few days. In a nearby community, the water was rising a foot evry ten minutes. Barely time to get out.