I know the title may seem confusing, but let me explain. Today, November 22, we rightly remember with broken hearts the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, the state I’ve been a resident of my entire life. But it is also for me a very happy day because it is the birthday of my beautiful wife Betty to whom I have been married for 50, God-blessed years.
It is likely everyone alive the day of that tragic event on Elm Street in Dallas can remember exactly where they were at the time they heard the heart-rending news. I was driving through Dallas from Houston to preach a weekend revival at First Baptist Church in McKinney, Texas. I was only 20 years old and had been married to Betty for nine months. I stopped to fill up the car’s gas tank, and since there was no such thing as self-service, the station attendant opening the gas cap commented, “The president’s just been shot!” I immediately responded, “The president of this oil company?” He said, “No, the president of the United States was shot in Dallas!” I was stunned, horrified. I was about to drive through Dallas on Interstate 75. When I got in the car I immediately turned on the news and in short time I learned that the president had not only been shot, he had been pronounced dead. I was shaken and heartbroken. How could this happen in this great, free nation and in my own state? Needless to say, my weekend revival turned to focused, prayerful concern.
All Americans are devastated by such a horrific event. There is not a single person who does not pray or at least hope for security and peace that will inspire respect, honor, and protection for all of our citizens. When there is so much dissension and animosity on all fronts, especially politically, we as Christians should earnestly pray for supernatural peace and harmony. While standing for the principles we believe are critically important, may God give us a calmness and clarity with all our convictions and determination that does not inflame unhealthy rage. Heated discussions are necessary and important. Convictions and communication related to deeply-held beliefs should always be shared with courage and confidence, but not with venomous anger and threats.
I pray that remembering this tragic event 50 years ago will lead more people to be prayerfully involved in not only safeguarding freedom and the foundational principles essential to it, but also committed to communicating with compassion and understanding regardless of how distinct the differences may be. May God deliver everyone from any attempt to assassinate character or threaten in any way those with whom we disagree.
When I say this is a happy day, I certainly don’t exaggerate. Today is Betty’s 70th birthday! She frequently tells me, “You don’t have to share that I’m going to be as old as you a few weeks after you have your birthday.” Of course everyone laughs because she looks so much younger than me. I recently commented when they posted a picture in the local newspaper during our 50th anniversary “Awaken Now” conference that most people probably said, “There’s James with his daughter!”
Joseph Prince was our guest this week on programs to be aired later. He commented in our studio the same thing he did when I talked to him from Singapore a few weeks back, “Your wife is a radiant example as a Christian. She’s so beautiful and young looking. She inspires me.” Well, she inspires me too and everyone who knows her.
This has been quite a month for us with birthdays. Three of our grandsons were born in November and our beautiful daughter Robin (now celebrating with Jesus) was also born this month. We spent hours discussing that wonderful day earlier this week. God graced us with a little miracle baby that brought life and joy into this world. Several close friends wrote notes and posted comments on Facebook that our daughter Robin is celebrating her 41st birthday this year with Jesus in heaven! It is this assurance that gives us “peace that passes understanding.” The prayers of many friends and fellow believers have lifted us up and enabled us to slowly begin to take off the “garments of heaviness and put on the garments of praise.” I know as you read these words with a sincere desire to understand you are lifting us up to God in prayer.
But now let me share the joy of knowing a wonderful girl I met when she was only 15. I was captured by her sweet, innocent, shy, wholesome demeanor. I will never forget during what Baptists called back then “Training Union,” she looked back over her shoulder from a few rows in front of me and flashed that big smile. Perhaps in that moment I knew I was caught. Our courtship was blessed with the abiding presence of the Lord Jesus.
She was a very dedicated little church girl. I often joke that she was the original “church lady” because she was just so good. Yet on one of our dates as I was talking about how real Jesus is to me, I commented, “He is as real as the flesh on my arms.” She looked at me in a very timid, concerned expression and said, “Jesus is not that real to me. He’s just someone I’ve always heard about.” A few months later as we continued to talk about Jesus I witnessed a wonderful moment. Betty taught her junior girls’ Sunday School class as she always did. She went to the choir room and put on her choir robe and sang in the choir, and then walked to the platform with her sister and sang a duet before the pastor preached. When the message was over and he extended the invitation, I watched in amazement as Betty left the choir, came down the steps, turned around at the front of the church, got on her knees, and then stood up and took the pastor’s hand saying, “Brother Hale, I just gave my life to Jesus. I just became a Christian.”
Shocked, the pastor exclaimed, “Betty, you’re the best girl in this church. What do you mean you just got saved?”
She said, “Pastor, stop telling me how good I am. I am so tired of trying to be what I’m not. I just gave my life to Jesus.”
What a day that was! She has never wondered again if Jesus was in her heart. She was not just a member of the church, and had not simply been through the motions of being baptized, but she had been born again by the Spirit of the living God. Thousands of church members and religious people have come to know Christ personally as a result of Betty’s testimony.
My wife became and continues to be the most beautiful expression of the life of Christ I have ever witnessed. I have met many great Christians around the world, but I’ve never known one like the precious girl that was born on this day in 1943. Tears well up in my eyes even now as I write about the journey we’ve shared together. I’ve said many times: I stand on the shoulders of a girl a little over 5’3” (she likes to say 5’4”). She is truly a woman after God’s heart, filled with grace and beauty. Her faithful love, depth of character, and unwavering devotion to God, to me, to our family, and to Christ’s commission continues to be the greatest inspiration in my life.
So please understand, this is indeed both a sad and happy day for me. I weep over the loss we remember on this day, but rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory the birth and life of my beautiful wife Betty Catherine Freeman Robison. Betty and I seek to be an example to a very needy, sick, divided, spiritually-diseased nation in need of the healing that comes only from above. We also pray for the church of the Lord Jesus to awaken now, put on His righteousness and begin fulfilling His kingdom purpose on this earth right now, for His glory.
Thanks again to all of you who are friends of LIFE, who help us share it, not in word only but in deed. Thank you for diligently seeking to help us put God’s arms of love around a broken world and inspire healing in a divided, debt-ridden, and, in so many ways, deceived nation.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY SWEETHEART – BETTY!