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The Woman Who Loved to Ride a Motorcycle

Blog. Ruth Graham.jpg

Lord, please give me back my verses. I prayed, please just give me back my verses.

I listened intently as the woman on the platform shared the shocking details of her head injury. The near-fatal accident occurred as she tried to create a play structure for her beloved grandchildren. The fall and its effect on her memory were serious, and in the hospital she pled with God to give her back the Scriptures she had so arduously learned over the course of her life.

Pregnant with our first child, I shifted uncomfortably in my stadium seat this humid June evening of 1975. Yet the elegant woman—standing on the podium and addressing the audience of thousands at the microphone—held my attention as if she and I were all alone in a conversation. Her love for God, her husband, and her family made me long for a personal conversation.

Though we would never meet face to face, she and I eventually became acquainted through her writings. The woman was Ruth Graham, wife of world renowned evangelist Billy Graham.

Recently, I read Ruth, A Portrait: The Story of Ruth Bell Graham by Patricia Cornwell, published in 1997 by Doubleday. The author's personal friendship with Ruth brings delightful familiarity to a woman the world only knows from a distance.

Interesting insights I gleaned from reading this biography:

•    Ruth was born on a missionary compound in China. Her father, a medical missionary, brought her into the world in the upstairs bedroom of their home.

•    As a child growing up, she loved pets.

•    At thirteen, this child suffered severe homesickness at boarding school fifteen hundred miles from her parents.

•    Ruth Bell believed, growing up, she would never marry and would give her life as missionary to Tibet.

•    At Wheaton College, the first time they met, Billy Graham said that he fell in love.

•    Once engaged, Ruth actually entertained second thoughts, and wrote her fiancé a crushing letter. Thankfully, they overcame the obstacles, and The Grahams were married after their senior year—he the Baptist, and she the Presbyterian.

•    Gracious and humorous, in their global ministry Ruth moved seamlessly between royalty, celebrities, and commoners. Sharing her faith was never an assignment, but a calling. Her genuine love for people flowed out of her Scripture-saturated love for God.

•    As a mother of five children—with Dad often away—the day began with reading Bible verses around the kitchen table.

•    Early morning hours, the only time to herself, were Ruth's for studying her Bible and meditating.

•    She was a devoted grandmother, and her grandchildren called her Tai Tai, Chinese for 'The Great One.'

•    Her writings, especially her poetry, pour from a soul deeply in love with God.

•    I never knew, before reading this volume, that Ruth Graham accompanied Billy on his visit to speak in communist Poland in 1978 . (I still recall the overflowing crowd in the downtown Warsaw venue, the cold corner where I stood hovered in the back of this ancient church, and the glaring eyes of the security police who monitored every move of every person in attendance. I remember wondering if there would be negative consequences from our choosing to attend. Thankfully, there were not.) 

•    George and Barbara Bush, Johnny and June Cash, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans were close friends of the Grahams.

•    Ruth Graham learned to ride a motorcycle.                           

I commend this book to you. 

 Living with Eternal Intentionality: What is a favorite biography you have read lately. Why did you enjoy it?