Ash Wednesday, 2011

2011. Last night I received the external mark of penitence with the imposition of ashes: the sign of the cross placed on my forehead. I was reminded:  “Dust you are and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19).

After the imposition of the ashes our congregation knelt and we confessed sin.  The rector then spoke over us forgiveness and absolution from sin. We then celebrated the Great Feast of Thanksgiving. I received the Eucharist and returned to my seat.

While others in the congregation went forward to receive the Eucharist, the choir and congregation sang hymns and choruses. It was during this time that the organ began to play “Just As I Am”.  Immediately I recalled the Greater Chicago Billy Graham Crusade I had attended in 1971.

The Crusade took place in Chicago’s huge convention center, McCormick Place.  The convention center at that time was the largest indoor arena in the United States.  Over 18,000 people gathered for the event held during May & June of 1971.

With other members of my church, I attended the crusade as a counselor.  This crusade was an event I will never forget:  massive crowds of people, thousands of voices singing, Cliff Barrows leading songs, George Beverly Shea singing solos, the Crusade Choir singing How Great Thou Art and of course, the preaching of Billy Graham. At seventeen years old, I was awe struck. I had never seen so many people come together for Christ.  It was foretaste of heaven for me.

Around that time, many of my friends and I were involved in the Jesus People movement in the Chicago area.  Our simple message during the crusade: “One Way” and “Tell Billy Graham: ‘The Jesus People love him.”

At the end of Billy’s message, an invitation was given to come forward.  The choir began to sing Just As I Am.  Hundreds of people then came forward to receive the Lord into their hearts. There were people of all races and walks of life. Billy would say to the crowd, “The ground is level at the foot of the cross.”

As one of many prayer counselors, I talked and prayed with those who came forward to receive Christ. Many decisions for Christ were made that day. Many lives were forever changed that day.  I was changed by the power of the Gospel.

The Good News of Jesus Christ, “the Jesus Revolution”, is at work in me now, just as I am – dust.

Just as I am, without one plea, 
but that thy blood was shed for me, 
and that thou bidst me come to thee, 
O Lamb of God, I come, I come. 
Just as I am, and waiting not 
to rid my soul of one dark blot, 
to thee whose blood can cleanse each spot, 
O Lamb of God, I come, I come. 
Just as I am, though tossed about 
with many a conflict, many a doubt, 
fightings and fears within, without, 
O Lamb of God, I come, I come. 
Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind; 
sight, riches, healing of the mind, 
yea, all I need in thee to find, 
O Lamb of God, I come, I come. 
Just as I am, thou wilt receive, 
wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve; 
because thy promise I believe, 
O Lamb of God, I come, I come. 

Just as I am, thy love unknown 
hath broken every barrier down; 
now, to be thine, yea thine alone, 
O Lamb of God, I come, I come. 

- Charlotte Elliott

3 Responses to Ash Wednesday, 2011

  1. I was in the choir singing during the Billy Graham Greater Chicago Crusade in 1971 held at McCormicks place. I was 16, I had long blonde hair past my knees and carried a red leather Scofield Bible. It was an awesome and memorable to be a part of this ministry team.

    • Rising Window says:

      Thanks for commenting and reminding me of what unique time it was. Though I was already a follower of the Way the experience changed my life. I saw that the “The harvest is plentiful…”

      I had just graduated from high school and was heading to Moody Bible Institute in the fall.

      That night is unforgettable and even more so now as Billy grows older. The Lord has blessed him. Two verses of Scripture come to mind regarding Billy:

      “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, And he who is wise wins souls.” Proverbs 11:30.

      “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained by living a godly life.” PROVERBS 16:31

  2. Its November 28th 2015. I just watch the Billy Graham classic in Chicago at McCormick Place in 1971. I looked it up online and found you and your story. You were there. It’s good to get that connection love someone who was at that classic.

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