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Trip Around the Sun

 

 

54 of 52 - Billy Graham Big Production San Diego Stadium.

 

(This could well be the historical last big one. He is 84 years old.)

 

I would like to include this letter of yours in one of my reports - with
your permission - and without any names unless you wish otherwise -

 

Sure Chuck, I don't see why not.

The Letter - From a Friend:

I was indoctrinated from birth as an AOG fundamentalist, speaking in
tongues, threatening everyone with revivals to drive home the dogma of a
fiery, volcano-like hell, and they had people falling backwards while they
were speaking in tongues; my brother went up to the front to have the
"laying of hands" on him where they touch his forehead & babble a bunch of
undecipherable nonsense, then they push you over and a "deacon" is there to
"catch" you from slamming down hard to the floor.

I asked my brother what happened & he told me that he couldn't tell me,
"it's a secret."

I was pretty skeptical from as far back as I remember, but just about the
time I joined the Navy back in 1982 was when I first considered myself an
atheist, even though I knew very little, nor was I aware of anyone else
around me that was an atheist.

 

 

Sent:

Sheriff: Texas woman says God told her to kill sons

 

No decision on seeking death penalty, attorney says

 

Response:

We have to know this is mental illness. But imagine - Christians all over the place honor Abraham for his willingness to follow such a “command from God.”

 

Abraham should have told God to "Get Lost."

 

- Chuck

 

 

Someone wrote:

We’re losing our freedoms.

 

Response:

Things will move up and down a little with differing administrations - but
over the long haul - things are only getting better.

See - the conservatives want to keep the status quo - and the liberals want
to keep moving what they consider to be ahead. The conservatives slow this thing down (perhaps giving some stability to the process) - but over the long haul - the liberals always win. Shucks - we
have conservatives now taking credit for Social Security! That's cool - we don't
care who gets the credit, so long as liberty wins. The first black president will most likely be Republican – no way could a black Democrat win with almost no Republican votes. The black Republican will get many Democrat votes. Same for the woman – first one will probably be a Republican. That’s just the way it is.

 

Einstein said it best: “There is no limit to what we can accomplish – if we don’t care who gets the credit.”

 

Received:

These studies have consistently
found that the lower the IQ score, the more likely a person is to be
religious.


Response:

Now if this is understood - and it is indeed true - what do we make of it?

One of their biggest errors (people with high IQ's) is to expect everyone else to think and feel as they do. It's an unreasonable expectation.

Kids believe in Santa Claus - partly because they have not become smart enough to know better. But they're just as good as smarter people.

Look at the bottom lines. What do people "do" with their religions? That's what counts. If it's bad, it's bad. If it's good, it's good. If it's in between, it's in between.

I have a little (Well - she's 35 now) niece, who is retarded. She's as happy - all her life - as anyone anywhere I know. She may be the happiest person I've ever known.

In two minutes, I could have her believing in Santa Claus again. At Easter-Egg hunts, she helps us hide them - and then enthusiastically goes looking for them with the little ones.

High IQ's are not necessarily an ultimate advantage. Insects are very much more successful than we are - looking at the whole evolutionary picture. Evolution does not necessarily favor high intelligence.

Being "smart" enough to be secure in a position - like atheism - is not necessarily an advantage for living well. One still must deal with it, however.


An Atheist, talking about some of the terrible events in Christian history – like the Inquisition, ended with:

“Historical quibbling aside, one sees the general trend.”



Response:

This is the fallacy: There have been thousands of murderers in our own country, but it is not a general trend among the 260 million of us. The same is true of the nearly billion Christians - as well as of other major religious groups. A thousanth of one percent of them have done some terrible things, and people like to write about those events as though they represented the whole huge group.

Someone needs to understand what a billion is to a thousand. If just one person in a million among a billion did something terrible – that would be a thousand bad guys. Those terrible events were terrible indeed - but not representative of how the huge majority of Christians live day to day. Also, most of these terrible actions were political – not religious in motivation. They were about power.

If someone does not care about the math – the logic is not even worth considering.

 

Now - Christians living with both feet on the ground aside, some Christian denominations do have some horrible beliefs that they do not act on. They believe their god will burn most of us in Hell forever and ever, for example, including me and my Mom and Dad, who were wonderful and good people, and I’m ok myself. It's a dumb belief. It would also be a very evil belief - if it were acted upon - but it is not. These Christians do not burn people (other than that one in a million) - they simply worship a god they think does these horrible things. We think they are wrong - and believe me, I've talked to enough of them to know - many of them either believe the teaching is wrong or they hope it is wrong or wish it were wrong. They don't like the silly evil belief themselves - except for a few I'll venture to call some terrible names. Anyone who likes the notion of innocent people burning in hell is not fit to include him or herself among decent human beings, in my opinion.

I'll bet you that if you ask Billy Graham, for example - if he "likes" it that God will burn people, he will answer, "No - I do not like it." Why he continues to believe it, is a mystery to me. It is the worship of an evil “god.” Evil is not a mystery – we all know what it is, and burning good people forever is most certainly evil.


Saint Ignatius Loyola said: “We should always be disposed to believe that which appears to us to be white is really black, if the hierarchy of the church so decides.”

 

Example of this:

If God sends an angel to kill babies – (included among the firstborn of the Egyptians) - we decide that it is good for Him to have done – and some say it was actually good for the babies. (They go to heaven, for example.) That’s calling black, white. And there is no mystery involved. We all know that killing little babies is evil.

 

 

The Visit: Billy Graham – Mission San Diego

 

Looking for a Mormon Church to attend down in Chula Vista – I passed many churches of different denominations. Every other one of them had a big banner declaring that Billy Graham was going to be in town. I decided that perhaps the trip was not quite finished without that visit with: The Mission San Diego, with Billy Graham.

 

He’s 80 something now – I think I heard 84. There’s a good chance this will be a bit of a historical event.

 

The event was held at that great big church – the same as for another visit – when my son Billy and I attended the Charger game. (20 of 52 Trip Around the Sun.) This church has about 65,000 seats – or more, I think. It’s big. They have an organ too – I’ve heard it play “Take Me Out to the Ballgame!” Once they had 88 grand pianos there. I know this because I got to play piano number 55 – in the 1988 Super Bowl – Number XXII, I think I remember.

 

We used to live nearby the stadium – and we knew a place to park where you don’t have to pay up the eight dollars. We did that – and walked into the back of the stadium lot. It was slated to begin at 7:00 PM. We parked at about 4:00 and arrived at the stadium about 20 minutes later.

 

I’ve been saying “we.” Leona went with me on this one – to be sure I controlled myself – that I wouldn’t get caught up and “saved” – or that I wouldn’t get confrontational anywhere.

 

As it turned out – there were only two mildly confrontational events - One was before we entered the stadium – talking with demonstrators who held a sign that declared:

 

GRAHAM  IS  A  FALSE  TEACHER

 

I thought maybe this was a group that didn’t like the teaching of Hell or something – that Graham believed in too much failure.

 

Boy was I wrong.

 

I had to move fast to catch up with the seemingly main guy – he was walking fast trying to get his sign read by as many as possible. A quarter of the way around the stadium, I caught up. I was soon surprised to see that Leona had run also and pretty much kept up the pace. I think she really did sincerely want to keep me out of trouble. Leona has a tough job to do. (Bless her heart. She always seems to have a tough job to do.)

 

I told the man I was interested in what his message was, and we conversed.

 

“Well,” he said, “when you go in there, Graham is going to lie to you. He’s going to tell you that God loves everybody. That’s a lie. God hates almost everybody and is going to burn them in Hell forever. Only a few will make it. That’s what the Bible says.”

 

“So why do you believe the Bible is correct on that?”

 

“What? You question the Bible? – You will burn in Hell for sure.”

 

“So why do you believe the Bible is correct on that?”

 

“The Bible tells us it is God’s word.”

 

“So why do you believe the Bible is correct on that?”

 

He went off on another subject – I don’t think he liked my simple question.

 

He said, “Graham is going to teach you that you can change things – make things better. He’ll tell you that 9/11 was done by evil men – not by God.”

 

“What,” I said, “you believe 9/11 was God’s work?”

 

“I know it was – everything that happens is exactly as God planned it to happen. His will is always done – and no other will means anything at all.”

 

I said, “I hope a God like that does not exist – but if one did – I would hate that God’s guts.”

 

(Now I had his undivided attention.)

 

“What? You can’t hate God – you must fear Him”

 

“If I had known Hitler – I hope I would have hated him too. So many got caught up – what would I have done?”

 

He said, “You’d better fear Hitler.”

 

(See – these idiots also believe that God did the holocaust.)

 

I said, “Oh – I suppose I would fear him alright – just also hate his guts. Same for an evil God. If a God like that existed, I would fear him – but also hate his guts.”

 

“God is not evil.”

 

“Anyone who would burn people forever – just for being born in the wrong place – or the wrong time – or for having some belief technically incorrect – that person would be very evil – or who would do the 9/11 thing – or the holocaust - you describe an evil god – and then love him anyway. Naughty boy! Didn’t anyone teach you to choose your friends more carefully?”

 

Continuing -

“You are right – God is not evil – but that means He is not as you have described Him. He’s a nice God. You should be nice too.”

 

He was not nice. He was very much like his god.

 

(Now this is probably the greatest knowledge I have gained on the Trip Around the Sun. People tend to be like the god they worship. That’s scary stuff.)

 

He tramped off.

 

That was fine – Leona was about to take me away anyway. Now the Billy Graham thing would probably seem most mild and friendly. And I still had a couple hours to soften my style.

 

We went on into the stadium. We were early enough to select two of the very best seats. Lots of rehearsal was going on – and it was lots of fun to watch and listen. The choir was several thousand people – probably from around town. About twenty years ago, Leona and I sang in this group – saw an ad in the paper about rehearsals – and thought it would be fun – it was. Another time we joined a choir which combined a mostly black Baptist Church with a mostly white Baptist Church. My parents joined along with one of my brothers on that one. We had several rehearsals – and then the concert was at the big black Baptist Church down in National City. It was especially fun because we had seen the white church concerts on occasion – a friend was a member there – and invited us over the years. We enjoyed their delightful enthusiasm – quite a lot more jazzy than a Mormon concert. They don’t allow dancing, like we love, so they dance in the choir quite a lot.

 

So then this one – with that same enthusiasm – until the black leader took her place and we sang some of their songs. Now these just blew you out of the seats. All us while folks were laughing happily – and the black folks were enjoying our delight immensely. They had us knowing we were going to have a good time.

 

I remember a song called “He’s able!” You wouldn’t believe it. You think rock and roll is hot - - -

 

So now we’re listening to rehearsal at the Billy Graham deal – since I got off subject – this music is in the middle ground – like our friend’s Baptist Church downtown San Diego.

 

It seemed like the two hours went by pretty fast – none of it was uninteresting.

 

And then the meeting began. It was almost entirely a military theme – taking great advantage of both the military aura of our area – and the general “patriotism” of the time.

 

(President Kimball – June, 1976 Ensign President’s message.)

 

We sang several songs along with the big choir.

 

The Solid Rock

 

Because He Lives

 

And then:

 

“O God, Our Help In Ages Past”

 

During this entire song, big videos of ships and warplanes were being shown.

 

This whole thing about God being on our side in wars has always bothered me, but this audience was most enthusiastic about it. I was one – among 65,000.

 

It’s amazing that the other side often thinks God is on their side. That goes for the Civil war too – and both sides were Americans worshipping mostly the same God.

 

Under the shadow of thy throne

Thy saints have dwelt secure

Sufficient is thine arm alone

And our defense is sure

 

Big words were projected: “OPERATION  IRAQI  FREEDOM” to general cheering.

 

(1976 – June.)

 

(I will not include everything – the report will be long enough without.)

 

Major General Robert Van Antwerp:

 

The General spoke. I must say, he was a very talented speaker. He was in full uniform.

 

Stars and medals were abundant.

 

(Perhaps when Jesus returns – he will show us his. “This one is for when I changed the water to wine. – and this one is for when I was crucified for all mankind.”)

 

Never encouraged the kids in scouting – mostly because of this. There was so much other good stuff – and good people - and that was a loss. I’ve never been sure of my wisdom on this. But they were free to choose any of it on their own. They chose many other good things. I know some Eagle Scouts whom I greatly admire – as well as some leaders who are as great as any people I know.

 

This general had a winning personality. I can see how he would command the respect of those he commanded.

 

He said that over 700 of the people in his division over in Iraq – were baptized. (Cheers.)

 

(Leona said she thinks this general was involved in the other Iraqi war – Desert Storm - not this one. I didn’t pick up on that.)

 

God let me know it’s about Him and not about us. What a refreshing thing it is to know it is about Him – and not about me. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Cheers.)

 

As our President descended to that aircraft carrier (Cheers) and gave an unforgetable experience for heroes to meet their commander in chief – (Cheers)

 

And now God has descended on America’s Finest City. (He talked of some of the tragedies we have recently gone through here – the Van Dam case, etc.) And we needed this visit from God.

 

Billy Graham has brought it to us.

 

We’ve already “almost” met our goal of $ --- Now tomorrow, for the children’s meeting, we won’t even have to take a collection – if we do well now. Cash is fine – so are checks – just put it in the envelope and pass it over.

 

(Something I’ve noticed during the Trip – is that the collection often occurs in the midst of climax – these airplanes and ships and Presidential landing – and words of the heroes of San Diego – a decorated General speaking – all appeared to bring in lots of dough.)

 

May the bars go bankrupt! And may the Happy Hours be replaced with Joyous Days!

 

The choir sang numbers – recorded – not miked – I know this both from experience – and because the sound went off a couple times for part of a second – and the choir was barely audible. It’s basically lip-syncing – even though the choir is huge.

 

Then it was time for Billy Graham himself.

 

(Cheers)

 

He held his hands face-forward to quell the cheers and started –

 

There are people from many religions here tonight. There are Catholics. There are Baptists – many different churches. Tonight, we are all together. (Applause and cheers.)

 

There was a Catholic Priest – liked to do what other men do – and went to a horse race. (Laughter)

 

Another man saw this Priest hold out his hands and bless a horse. Then that particular horse won the race.

 

So then the man saw the Priest bless another horse – and that horse also won his race.

 

And then it happened a third time.

 

So on the next race, when this man saw the Priest bless a certain horse – the man went over and placed his bet. He said he was not a gambling man – but this was not gambling – this was a sure thing. (Laughter)   And besides – the money would be for his church. (More laughter)

 

The horse went around the first turn – fell down on his side dead.

 

The man went up to the Priest and said, “Hey – what gives. I saw you bless three horses, and all of them won their races. then you blessed another one – I bet on it – and it fell down dead. What gives?”

 

The Priest said, “Young man – you must not be a Catholic.”

 

“No – I’m not – but how did you know that?”

 

“Well, young man, if you had been a Catholic, you would have known the difference between a blessing and the Last Rites.”

 

(Laughter)

 

And then I’m be danged, Billy Graham set out to say exactly what the man outside said he would say –

 

The good news is that God loves you – and He will forgive every one who accepts Him.

 

(It’s a very positive message – that God loves everyone – but the Hell thing – and the number of innocent people that are believed to go there – how is that loving? I will have questions to ask later – when I go down to the field with those who are being “saved.”)

 

Don’t fall into the trap where you say, “I know I’m on the wrong road, but I’m not ready to get off yet. I’ll wait – and come to God later.” It won’t work that way.

 

(So I thought – if I come back years later – hear the invitation – and say, “No – Dr. Graham told me years ago that it couldn’t work this way. It’s too late now.” What will they then say? We know, of course, they will say it’s not too late.)

 

But then he went on to change his “It won’t work that way,” to “You may not be able to do it later.” Now that’s different – and it’s unlikely people will know now that the first man’s idea might well be workable. Have fun – wait ‘til later when the motivation for “fun” has died down a little – then walk on down there and get “saved.”

 

He told the story of The Prodigal Son, and said it was probably the greatest short story ever told.

 

(But didn’t he realize that the Prodigal Son had just done exactly what Billy had said would not work? “It won’t work that way.”)

 

(Often, in all these religions – things are taught as absolutes – when in fact they are statistical. The Word of Wisdom comes to mind – It promises “You will walk and not faint – run and not be weary,” but in truth the promise should be, “You will be more likely to walk and not faint, run and not be weary.”)

 

In fairness, Billy did come to say it that more correct way – but only after he had already had the effect of the other.

 

We have monuments honoring the war dead for Vietnam – and for Korea – and there will be one for Iraq also.

 

(I was impressed by the fact that he left out the enemies of England for the Revolutionary War – and Mexico for those wars - and Germany for World War II – and the South for the Civil War – All of these are primarily Christian nations – He named only the ones which are not Christian.)

 

Then at the very end of his talk – before the invitation to come down – he said:

 

“Go out and get acquainted with someone of another race. This brings us together. Becomes friends – tell them the story – it is for everyone.”

 

Now we’re going to have all of you who would like to do it – just walk on down to the field – together with thousands – we will give you some literature – and help you to say some simple words of acceptance. Come from everywhere – come on down. There are people to help you with the directions to get down.

 

(He continued to speak the soft-spoken invitation – as thousands went down. I asked Leona if she would like to come down with me – so we could remain together. She was not comfortable with that – so since we both knew where the car was parked – we separated. I went down, and she stayed in her seat. I told her I would ask only a few questions. She had reason to be a little angry with me – when we finally were together again – two hours later.)

 

From our rows of seats, you could not simply walk down to the field – had to go back outside the stadium. As I went – there were people to point the way – outside – almost halfway around the whole stadium – and into the big tunnel. Walking down into that big tunnel – seeing the grass lit up at 9:00 at night - as though it were in a frame – then down lower – and the seats across the stadium come into view – then another tier of seats – and then another – and then the top tier – all completely filled with people also lit by the lights - and finally the bright lights up at the top appear – bright enough that everything else tends to disappear. This all brought back my walk down that tunnel to take my place at Grand Piano number 55 for the Super Bowl Halftime show in 1988. My heart was beating faster – not quite as fast as it did back then – but the memory was a little amazing. I had been very fearful that night – as among 88 piano players, I was the least – and deathly afraid I might mess up. I had also been the oldest among all of them – and now I was another 15 years older yet.

 

When we got to the field – it was becoming very crowded – we were guided to move toward the center – and there were people with special dress and badges – who would be our guides.

 

One came to me and asked, “Are you here to be saved?”

 

(Now it occurs to me that this would be a good time to say that next week’s report will continue with this - - no - )

 

I said, “No – not really to be saved – but I do have some questions – “

 

“That’s fine. I hope I will be able to help you with your questions – but if not – I can also call upon others to help.”

 

I said, “Well – I know that the belief is that almost all of God’s children are going to burn in Hell forever and ever – without quenching – in horrible unbelievable pain never ending – right? I want to make sure I have this right before I ask a question about my own father - - ”

 

He said, “Oh no – not most.”

 

“Ok,” I said – maybe I have something wrong here. There are less than a billion Christians in the world – and there are five billion people – are some going to heaven who are not Christians?”

 

“No.”

 

“Well then – we have already 4/5 of his children who are going to burn in Hell – right?”

 

“I see – yes – I guess that is right.”

 

“And among that billion or so who are Christians – some of those are Mormons or Jehovah’s witnesses – or Catholics – etc. – who have something technically wrong about the role of Jesus Christ – and these are unlikely to be in the group that is saved?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“So – maybe half of those billion – leaving only 1 in 10 who will be saved?”

 

“I don’t know if this is right or not – I want to get a supervisor to work with you.”

 

“Ok.”

 

He waved – and another man came over, but they both stayed with me for at least another hour.

 

The supervisor, on hearing what we had discussed said, “Yes – that is correct – only few there be that find it.” He turned to the other man and said, “Yes – it is correct – most will not make it.”

 

“And so,” I said, the belief is that most of God’s children will burn forever?”

 

“Well – these who burn are not God’s children.”

 

“He did not make them?”

 

“Well – He did make them – but they decided not to be his children.”

 

“Ok.” (Of course – it’s not ok with me – but at least I understood the position.)

 

“On this deciding not to be His children – does that include everyone that never even hears the name of Jesus Christ?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“How did they decide?”

 

“Everyone has a witness of it.”

 

“Oh – I see.”

 

“And what about all those in the Old Testament – who did not know Jesus?”

 

“If they expected the Messiah – that was Jesus.”

 

“And what of Jews today – who expect a Messiah.”

 

“No – no – not now that the Messiah has come – if they don’t accept Jesus as that Messiah – no way.”

 

“So how did they accept Jesus back then – expecting a Messiah – but not knowing it was to be Jesus?”

 

(This one was a puzzlement. I know that some fundamentalists say all the people of the Old Testament – even Moses – burn in Hell – because they did not know Jesus. I’ve had that answer during the Trip.)

 

I said, “Ok – we have the groundwork for my first really important question.”

 

(I told them about my Dad – that he had died a couple years ago – that he was always an atheist – but a very good and serving man - )

 

“Does he burn in Hell forever – without ending?”

 

“Well - he might have believed at some time – “

 

“If we assume he did not – “

 

“Afraid so – He would burn in Hell forever.“

 

“Ok – that brings me to the most important question. I’ve been trying very hard to learn this year what people really believe. Here is the question, Are you glad all these people are burning in Hell?”

 

“Oh no – we’re not glad – very sad about it.”

 

“So something that God has decided makes you unhappy with His choice?”

 

“It’s not His choice.”

 

“He could not stop this burning?”

 

“Of course He could; He can do anything.”

 

“But He decides not to stop it? Are you happy with His decision?”

 

I continued, “You see – I’m not interested in what the doctrine is – what God says – I’m interested in what you –standing right here on your own two feet – believe and want. I would love to talk with Billy Graham – but that’s not going to be possible – so I want to know what you two right here believe in. Do you believe in this Hell – Are you glad it exists? I know it’s a hard question – you don’t have to answer right away – I want to tell you more about my Father – and ask some more about him and what God has in store for him.”

 

(They were silent – I don’t think looking forward to these questions. These were both very nice men – the doctrine they have been taught is not worthy of them. It’s not worthy of Billy Graham either.)

 

(No evil doctrine is worthy of any human being – unless that human being would like that doctrine – would him or herself be as evil as the doctrine is.)

 

I told them about my Dad’s dying days – all the suffering – and of his positive attitude and gratitude right to the very end.

 

I described the cancer – how it took his tongue and then his saliva glands – and his throat – until he could not talk – could not swallow – and how he fed himself through a tube into his stomach.

 

Then I asked, “And now has a god who loves my Dad with all his heart – put him in the way of suffering even worse than that – and never ever to end? For revenge against my dad’s not believing the data justifies a belief that Jesus is His son?”

 

“Not for revenge.”

 

“So this punishment has some other purpose? What purpose? Is repentance to come at some time in the future?”

 

“No.”

 

“Then what possible purpose for the punishment? Does God just enjoy it?”

 

(Of course – I’m not so dumb that I think they will have good answers – and I wasn’t here just to see how uncomfortable I could make them – I wanted to know if they really believed this stuff. I think they do not – but it’s a work to get them to the point that they can tell you how angry they really are about this sort of doctrine – there is fear. We are not exempt either – we believe many very ugly things.)

 

God is not ugly – He is beautiful – Let us not believe ugly things about Him.

 

I really do not believe that technical things are what matters most. I don’t care if God is literal – or made by man – so long as He is good.

 

What we believe about God – is what we are becoming. It is our core values – they define us eventually.

 

It is not what these men have been taught – but what they themselves want – that counts. They do not like the thought of my good Dad burning in Hell – that makes them better than the God they purport to believe in. How can they define a God not as good as they themselves are? This god is not worthy of them. They would not burn my Dad – this god would. That’s a slam dunk for who I favor – them – not their god. They are better than they know – better than their god.

 

I wasn’t going to get much further than this with these good men. We went over everything well enough to have the thoughts all gel with all three of us. The field was nearly empty now – and men were taking up equipment and tarps. These two were to participate in the breakdown also – but they wanted to pray first.

 

“Ok,” I said.

 

The supervisor guy prayed a long prayer – entirely to my benefit – not a word about my Dad - about five minutes.

 

Then the other man wanted to pray too. He prayed a long long long prayer – again mostly for my benefit – not a word about my Dad - about 15 minutes !

 

We were in a three-man circle – mildly embracing.

 

So I decided to say just a few words – and asked Heavenly Father to bless these two good men – that they would continue being as good as they were – with their desire to help others.

 

Then I’ll be danged if that supervisor didn’t want to pray one more time –

 

And what he said was most revealing –

 

“Please God – Bless Chuck’s Dad.”

 

That’s all.

 

Now think about this – My Dad is burning in Hell – from whence he may never escape – and this man is asking God to bless him. And the man had tears in his eyes.

 

We have beliefs about  which we are scarcely aware – all of us.

 

 

The greatness of us is not what we are taught is true – but what we want to be true.

 

What an honest person believes is forced upon him or her by data – but what one wants or hopes for – is a real choice. It is, in a very real sense, the person.

 

These two good men went to help with the equipment. There would still be meetings tomorrow and on Sunday, but some things had to be removed – like coverings for the grass.

 

 

After the visit:

 

I went to find Leona. On looking up into the stands, it was obvious she couldn’t still be there – they were empty. I looked a little around the area of the stadium that would be where one would start if headed for our car – no Leona – so obviously, she had gone to the car.

 

It was very dark – and the way to the car was through dark areas under freeway ramps, etc. At one point during my walk to the car, voices came from under a ramp – curse words – and the words, “This really sucks.” Evidently, they were angry that anyone would be walking this way and interrupting whatever it was they were about. Then I heard a girls’ voice too – and figured it was some kind of “date.” I was a little concerned that Leona had had to walk this way alone.

 

20 minutes later, I arrived at the car. I looked inside – no Leona. I called out – no Leona. I decided it was best to go as quickly as possible back to the stadium – in case I had missed her there. It was nearly 10:00 at night.

 

I drove fast – got to the stadium and was let into the lot – parked – and went looking and calling. Finally, I saw the security office – with officers. I went in and told them I and my wife had become separated. They told me that nobody was in the stadium who had been a guest – only workers. They had no way to page.

 

I spent a few minutes more – and decided I must go back to where we had parked – in case she had been some distance behind me during the walk. When I got there – I got out and called – no Leona.

 

I drove to McDonalds – where there was a pay phone. I called home. The answering machine answered, and I was about to hang up – when Leona’s dad answered.

 

“Hello.”

 

“Hi, Dad - Has Leona called?”

 

“She’s at the WalMart in Murphy canyon.”

 

“Thanks, Dad – I’ll go there. Bye – and thanks.”

 

“You’re welcome – bye.”

 

When I got to WalMart, I went in and looked around – but could not find her. I asked about paging – and they paged her. After she didn’t show up for ten minutes – I asked if I could go out and still get back in, as they were closing. They said I could.

 

Outside, sitting on a bench – was Leona. I’m not one to worry – but I was relieved.

 

She, however, was angry. “I thought you said you were only going to ask a couple questions.”

 

“I know – if you had gone with me – that’s the way it would have been – but you know how I am. Where were you – why weren’t you at the car?”

 

“I didn’t bring my keys – I couldn’t get in the car – I was sitting not too far away from the car when you drove right away. Why didn’t you wait? I was calling out and you didn’t hear me. I thought you had just forgotten that I had come with you – you get so involved!”

 

(That hurt my feelings a little – you know. It is something that actually could occur – the forgetting , I mean. But it had not occurred, and I wanted to be excited about the rest of our date for the night.)

 

I was not yet off the hook. If anyone is forgiving, however, it is Leona,  and ten minutes up the road toward Escondido, we were buddies again.

 

 

The Trip Around the Sun evidently is no place for “riders,” – especially if once all the way around, you continue to coast a little further.

 

Absolutely, if I’ve learned anything during the Trip – it is that what one believes is not what counts – it is what one wants. We can never change anything by believing it – but if we want – we work toward a goal.

 

We got home after 11:00. We had started at about 3:00. Eight hours – longest stop on the Trip Around the Sun – of all.

 

 

54 of 52 - Billy Graham Big Production San Diego Stadium.

 

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