Threshing The Wheat From The Chaff

I will never forget the night we heard Billy Graham preach
before a crowd of thirty thousand, gathered in Jet Stadium in
Columbus, Ohio, several years ago. A storm was threatening, rains
were beginning to blow, and Billy was mingling among a crowd
seeking autographs, just prior to his sermon, while workmen
overhead were already removing the organ and piano to keep them
from getting wet. I chatted a few words with Mr. Graham, something
about a book I was writing. He was very friendly, but I was
certainly not famous enough for him to know on a
‘first-name’ basis.

After the instruments had been removed, Billy mounted the podium
and began preaching the Word. His voice fought a constant battle
with the flash of lightning and the roar of thunder, but he
persisted to the end of the sermon quite true to his style, despite
the antagonizing elements hurled about him.

Upon seeing our own pastor, the following day, I told of our
great experience the evening before, how Billy Graham preached to
thirty thousand during a thunderstorm, and the crowds stayed. The
preacher said a few kind words, then left briefly with a sadness in
his eyes.

The same day I told of the same experience to another young
minister. And he replied, rather discouraged, ‘Yes Billy can
pack them in, but I can’t’.

Then I realized my mistake. I had unintentionally hurt the
feelings of two lesser servants of the Lord who had spent their
whole lives in serving God and yet the image of a Billy
Graham’s success was anything but joy to them. ‘He could
pack ’em in’ but they struggled for years and at best only
a bare thirty filled the sanctuary.

My own Father and Mother were always holding up outstanding
individuals in the fields of religion, music, politics, art and
sports for ‘us kids’ to pattern our lives after. There was
Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey, Paderewski and Fritz Kreisler, Teddy
Roosevelt, Billy Sunday, Gypsy Smith, Norman Rockwellthe lineup of
famous ones we were taught to admire seemed endless. And I always
was grateful that our parents aimed our sights high in our boyhood
world of idols.

But over the years, I have many times wondered just why only a
certain few seem to fly so high, while thousands of lesser souls
work just as hard, are just as sincere and just as deserving as the
successful, yet theirs is the discouraging road of plodding
failure. They are always ‘reaching for the stars’ but never
touching them. The small town musician practices religiously his
instrument for perfection, but never can muster an audience to
listen. But when Paderewski sat down at the piano, thousands waited
breathlessly for the first chord. The village preacher devotes his
life to God, hoping to convert the world to Christianity, but
throughout his life his sermons fall on empty pews and barren

It’s the age old-truism, spoken by Jesus ‘Many are
called, but few are chosen.’ But to us lesser ones, we cry out
‘If we are called, and found worthy why not are we chosen?’
It’s the plaintive wail of the human predicament, begging only
an honest answer.

Recently I heard Billy Graham again-only this time he was
preaching over my T-V tube in the parlor. There were the thousands
listening breathlessly. There were many coming to the front to make
their decisions for Christ that evening. I was happy to see that.
But afterwards I was still pondering the same question ‘Why are
not more given the success of Billy Graham, so that many more can
be reached?’ Why is success limited to but a few, even in the
work of God’s Kingdom?

As I sat meditating in my basement before my type writer I
glanced over to see what time it was getting to be. There was the
one clock that ticked ever so furiously, its little pendulum
wagging back and forth many times a second as if it couldn’t
keep up. But the noise it was making left me rather nervous. I then
looked at another clock which had a large watch-type balance
wheeland this big wheel was slowly revolving back and forth at a
much slower rateyet the time was the same. Looking at my big wall
regulator, I could barely hear its dignified pendulum, swinging but
once every second, yet its hands were pointing to the very same
time. And lastly, the little brass clock in the beveled glass
caseits revolving foliot pendulum was turning right, then left,
very slowly and making no noise whatever but the time, it was
always the same.

From the several clocks I had around me, I was learning a bit of
philosophy about life itself. The nervous, fast-ticking little
clock, despite its loudness and its efforts to impress me, told the
time no better than the slower, silent clocks whose hands were
pointing to the same minute and hour. The dignified, large
regulator, its pendulum following an arc much longer and slower,
was just as much on time as the clock that wanted to impress me the
most. Even the foliot-escapement clock, with silent movement that
runs 400-days with but a single winding, was also right on time
without trying to impress me at all.

I turned my thoughts from clocks to humans, and therein lay a
parallel. Some people make a great big show a monumental fuss of
what they do for the Lord. Then there are those, more quiet and
dignified, who go about doing the Lord’s will, without so much
noise. And last, there are the very silent ones who are prayerful,
obedient to the command, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’
The quiet ones are often closer to God and doing His will more
fruitfully than the noisy, braggadoccio kind. Even, Himself, is
most silent of all.

Jesus taught the lessons of life by parables. But to me the
clocks ticked this parable off, in their own sweet time. And the
answer came true, as if from pages of scripture.

Reading a very interesting book, THE MEMOIRS OF CHIEF
, the dignified old Indian chief, now 101 years
wise, tells of how the early christians came to his people to
‘civilize’ them and make them Christian. Some were very
kind and understanding, admiring the American Indian as one of the
finest examples of physical and spiritual man in the world. They
believed in The Great Spirit whom we call our ‘God.’ They
were healthy, strong, erect, great family people, kind to their
children and loyal to their oaths. But there were the other kinds
of Christian (so-called) preachers and evangelists that invaded the
Indian territory who claimed they were trying to ‘civilize and
christianize’ them yet who denounced their every virtue, their
Great Spirit (God), and belittled every effort in their noble
culture as the children of God. These were nothing but sadists, of
spiritual wolves, hiding under sheeps’ skins, Pharisees of the

Nothing could be more hypocritical or distasteful to the honest,
believing and fearless Indian of the plains than dishonesty among
white men who pretended righteousness, especially among those who
claimed they were saving the Indian from his terrible ways.

‘If you white Christian brothers claim to have the only Word
of God, why is it that all of you are disagreeing, having read the
same Book,’ said Chief Red Fox ‘God gave my people no Word,
printed in a Book. But my people have no way in their vocabulary to
use the name of The Great Spirit, or God, in vain while your men
disgrace your God in profanity and vain language. Your people talk
smutty and vulgar. My people talk with respect of one

How noble and spiritual, the way of the true Indian, had not
many of the white men, hiding in sheeps’ clothing, murdered,
plundered and burned their homes and crops while pretending to
evangelize them in the name of Christ. Luckily, a few of the more
dedicated Christian missionaries saw good in their Indian brothers,
decrying the wicked ways of the white pretenders, bringing Christ
to the Red Man ‘by their walk, instead of their talk.’

Not long ago, I became involved in a biblical discussion with
some very close and dear friends. They are christians and live that
way, to the extent of their ability. But, when I would quote a
certain biblical phrase, letter perfect, they would pounce upon me
as not knowing the scripture. Then they proceeded to turn to the
page in their Bible to show me my error. Throughout their Bible,
there were pen markings, removing commas here and placing them
there, changing quotations, marking out this and adding that.

I referred, in our discussion, to the crucifixion scene, where
mention is made of ‘two thieves that were crucified with
Him.’ But they hastily corrected me, to inform me that there
were not two thieves crucified with Jesus that there were four, and
they were not thieves, but malefactors.

In reply, I explained that all four gospels, in every
translation of the New Testament I had read, reported that there
were two thieves not four malefactors.

Finally, the young husband informed me that the interpretations
in the Bible were mostly erroneous.

To him I answered, ‘At the time the King James Version was
written, the finest Greek scholars available were commissioned in
that day to do the interpreting as accurately as possible. Also
that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John the writers of the Four Gospels
were present at the crucifixion and all reported seeing two

The answer came quickly and finally from the young husband
‘Well, I know Greek I once took a two-week course in

To this his wife added, ‘I know there were four malefactors
crucified with Jesus, as I once saw a photo of the crucifixion

After scanning their marked up Bible, I said, ‘If any book I
had was as totally wrong as you claim your Bible is, I’d pitch
it out of the house. I wouldn’t want a book with all those
errors on my shelves.’

We haven’t discussed the Bible interpretations since. We
live side by side. We both believe in living and treating each
other like christians. But how easy it sometimes is to ‘lose
the love of God’ by pretending that one knows all about
‘God’s Book of Love.’

The Bible speaks of many ‘ways.’ ‘There is a
‘way’ that seemeth right to men, but that leads to
destruction’ ‘Others will come in My Name, saying, ‘I
am the ‘way’ deceiving the very elect. But they that come
other than by Me, the same are as robbers and thieves,’ saith
the Lord.

And speaking of ways there is a way to that feeling of health
and wellbeing, which is pleasant, inexpensive and available in the
spice cabinets of almost every farm kitchen, and the shelves of
your nearest country store which the huckster wagon will fetch,
next time he comes chugging up your turnpike road. The herb
we’re speaking of is a most common farm ingredient used in many
dishes, especially the dressing at Thanksgiving time and the
sausage at butchering time. It is none other than sage tea, which,
if sweetened with honey, makes one of the most delicious and
refreshing beverages a fine stimulant for almost anything that ails
you, wonderful for that sore throat feeling and good to help ward
off the common cold. My wife and I often prefer it to the more
advertised and expensive oriental teas, which have no benefit for
the health of one’s body. But sage tea is much praised by
herbalists as one of man’s finest tonics. For years, even
centuries, the crafty Chinese sold us their expensive teas, which
gave no health benefits, for high prices, while the occidentals
sold them our beneficial sage tea, which they valued for health,
for a mere pittance. It has taken occidental man many centuries of
being bilked in the world markets, before he finally wakes up. But
by all means, make your next beverage a cup of hot sage tea,
pleasantly sweetened by honey. You’ll sing praises to its
wonderful ‘lifting power’ when you have that ‘let
down’ feeling. Don’t worry if you can’t find some sage
on your spice shelves. Just give three yanks on that old party-line
telephone, and ask Aunt Effy or cousin Matilda up the road, to loan
you a few leaves. Put them in a strainer, pour boiling water over
them and allow to steep for twenty minutes in the cup sweeten and
note how much perkier you feel while you sip it. It is a great,
all-around medicine.

Drink a cup to me! You-all hear, now?

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