As time past, I started believing that the reason why my few prayers were not being answered was because "God was busy with Billy Graham". Yep, that had to be the reason; "God must be playing favorites". It took me awhile to realize that people who don't have an 'active vital relationship with the living creator God' build faulty "belief foundations".
In the Spring of 1983, I got to test my "Graham Theories". The Billy Graham Crusades had returned to my birth city, Oklahoma City, OK. Most crusades last a week and I was able to attend several sessions:
- Night Session 1: I brought my microscope to the arena. I entered a packed event like an 'investigative reporter'. Instead of secondhand analysis and other's theories, tonight I would experience the evangelist's magic or maybe deduce his formula's for success. Larnell Harris or Sandy Patti sang and GrahamBO approach the podium. He delivered a short 20 minute message. I expected more, but the audience responded. The stadium floor filled and many were born-again, I was confused. I would return for further observation and analysis.
- Night Session 2: This time I brought my beautiful ex-girlfriend. I warned her that we would probably end up falling under the anointing or the spell or end up getting "saved" again. We got to our seats and Sandy Patti began to sing. GrahamBO approach the podium. He delivered another brief message. My ex agreed that I could deliver a better message, but the audience responded anyway. The stadium floor filled and many were born-again, I was still confused; more analysis was needed.
- Night Session 3: Sometime during crusade week, GrahamBO met with my college football coach, Barry Switzer. After the meeting, my coach invited the team to the crusade. Most of the team boarded the buses and we arrive to reserved seats on the stadium floor. These were the best seats ever. Songs, the message, then something different. There was nothing special on the songs or this night's message; except, this time I felt I was to respond to the message and leave my seat to walk forward. I was confused. I hadn't doubted or questioned my salvation since 13 November 1981. But tonight, I was "asked to go forwarded"; I (wrongly) resisted and stayed in my seat. Then, I looked down the row to see my teammates fidgeting in their seats. I could NOT understand why no one responded. It was a quiet ride home. It was a puzzling night. My sleep was interrupted by a loud knock. I jumped down and opened the door. My friend and teammate, Caesar, was standing in the doorway and it look like he was crying. (Note: this was not common.) I was at the ceremony when he was nominated "Christian Athlete of the Year". So, if he was crying it was something serious. Caesar was waken earlier by a teammate that asked him, "How come you didn't go forward when Mr. Graham asked". Caesar shared his testimony about meeting Jesus much earlier in his life. Our teammate listened and on the way out of the dorm room he replied, "If you had gone forward, I would have gone forwarded too." I heard those words and I think my heart stopped. I'm not sure why Caesar came to my room to tell me that story. I felt bad but it was about to get worse. Caesar said, "He had felt the Lord ask him to go forward." OMG, I told him what I had experienced. Now, I was crying. (Note: this was extremely uncommon.) In the midst of tears and repenting, we promised that we would always OBEY that 'still small voice' - no doubts, no negotiations, just do it! That night, I learned there was NO MAGIC but there was a loving God who DOES miracles with people in an atmosphere of obedience. Obedience is the magic; obedience can change the world!
- Night Session 4: This last night, I brought my gymnast friend, Paul. We didn't have awesome seats; we had "nose-bleed" seats looking down on the 'tiny' people on stage. I remember it was Armed Forces Night. The military folks came dressed in their uniforms and they had special seating. We had bad seats but at least I got another crusade program for my analysis. I had saved one from each of the previous sessions. The meeting started. During the singing, the small voice said, "Give your program to the man on your left". I remembered my pledge; I gave my program. I was excited to see what my obedience was going to trigger. GrahamBo gave his message. Paul and I still could not understand why the floor filled with people. We marveled as many of the military folks went forward. It was miraculous! In the midst of the miracle, the guy, whom received my program, asked me, "Why people go down?" I knew that my earlier obedience was going to pay off. I took my time and gave my best 'salvation message' but, he did not respond to my message. No results. From the podium, GrahamBo said, "Turn to your right and left and ask your neighbor to go with you to the floor". I knew now was my moment. I turned to my Asian neighbor and asked if he wanted to go down. He replied, "No". Rejected again. In the face of embarrassment, I turned my back to gentleman. I'm not sure what had happened; I had followed the "obedience formula" but still failure. In my mind, I began to take took back all that I promised the night before and continued to explain to God about how He should do a better job on preparing people... I was angry but, the night was not over. I tried to distract myself from my anger and confusion by watching the soldiers stream down to the floor. I watched in awe. Paul was amazed. He never seen anything like it. The miracles had just begun. To my shock, my neighbor taps my shoulder. I was still angry and said, "WHAT DO YOU WANT". He said, "I wanna go down now". I was a blur passing the Asian, twelve sets of legs, and hit the stairs in full stride. I was down those steps like I was racing for a touchdown but where was the Asian? I looked back to our row and my Asian was just starting to stand. I raced back up, passed all those legs, grabbed the Asian before he could change his mind. Yes, I dragged him to the floor. I probably should have carried him. Here I was on the floor. I raised the arm of "my trophy" but no one came. All around people were hearing the gospel. People were getting bibles. Tears of joy were flowing. There was new-birth everywhere. In the midst of this 'chaos', I heard that little voice say, "Take off your name badge". [This isn't a secret but I wear name tags a lot. And that night was no acceptation, but why take off my badge?] OK, OK be obedient - I take off my badge and two volunteers appeared and proceeded to explain "the free gift of salvation" and "the benefits of a eternal life..." I said, "Hey I know this, concentrate on him". My volunteer walked away only to be replaced by another. I was forced to put my badge back on. Just in case, I moved off the floor and listened to the conversation between the crusade volunteer and my Asian. I had moved from complete confusion to unmeasurable joy. Assuming the fireworks were over, I continued to eavesdrop. I thought I was listening to and learning the Billy Graham Crusade follow-up process but, I was about to learn about an AWESOME GOD. The volunteer made sure my Asian prayed, had all his questions answered, and received a bible. I was pleased with my little role. The volunteer asked my Asian, "What do you do?". My Asian responded, "I'm a college student." Wow, God had me sit next to college student just like me. The volunteer asked, "What college do you go to?" My Asian responded, "The University of Oklahoma (OU)." Wow, the Asian and I go to the same university. My brain started calculating the odds... The volunteer asked, "What are you studying at OU?" My Asian responded, "Mechanical Engineering". Wow, the Asian and I are both studying Mechanical Engineering at the same school. My brain stopped calculating. What kind of God could arrange this? The volunteer had a final question, "What's your address so we can send you more information?" My Asian responded, " XXX Jones Ave, Norman, OK". The Asian and I live on the same street on the same campus."
Well in closing my first written tribute, I wish to publicly honor the MAN who lived a life of obedience. If he, GrahamBo, had not been living a life unto the Lord - my examination and/or investigation would have shown me tricks, schemes, and the manipulation abilities of men. My investigation of the Man led me to learn about an AMAZING, AWESOME, ALL-KNOWING KING! Mr. Graham thank you for your life. I am one of many who are grateful, thankful, and eternally marked.
I hope you don't mind the "GrahamBo". Thank you again.