I didn’t like Billy Graham very much when I was fifteen and listened to him on the radio. But a year or more later, as a new Christian, watching TV with someone I worked for, he was the vice-president of Stockton’s rice elevators, and I was a live-in babysitter for him and his wife’s girls, I enjoyed watching the evangelist.
And I was tickled because my boss had just said “you know he just puts on a big show,” and the first thing that Graham said when he came to the podium to speak was “this isn’t a show.”
As a new Christian and a teenager, I loved listening to George Beverly Shea. When I could afford it I bought his albums. I took them with me when I went to my next live-in babysitting job. That time it was for a darling baby boy. One day when I was gone the mom and dad played the records. They asked me not to play them when I was baby-sitting because they were too depressing. They thought they sounded like funeral music.
I’m not sure why. They were both Catholics. He had been raised as a Catholic, she was raised a Presbyterian and had converted to Catholicism when she married. I think they may have just liked Frankie Lane and old blue eyes too much. They were nice people, very young, and I have always wondered what happened to them and their son.
While I am thinking about those years, I also worked for a large very devout Catholic family. I think they were my favorites. But I laugh now. It was in those days when Catholics and Protestants looked at each other with suspicious eyes. And, really, they didn’t know much about the church I belonged to. I was a Baptist and they thought I worshiped John the Baptist.
Anyway one of my Facebook friends reminded all of us yesterday, Jan 31, that it was George Beverly Shea’s 102 birthday. And he posted a tiny interview where the singer explained how he came to write the music to "I would rather have Jesus."
And then one with Beverly Shea singing a song with words we all need right now.
Hat Tip to Jim Jordan