“The shortest distance between reality and truth is a story.”
He was a religious writer and interested in the Master’s views. “How does one discover God?” he asked.
Said the Master plainly, “Through making the heart white with silent meditation, not making paper black with religious composition.”
Then turning to his scholarly disciples, the Master teasingly added, “Or making the air thick with learned conversation.”
Back in the 1940s, there was a well-known radio host/comedian/musician/song-writer in Hollywood named Stuart Hamblen, who had a reputation for enjoying the proverbial “wine, women and song.” As a matter of fact, one of his bigger hits in those days was “I Won’t Go Huntin’ With You, Jake (but I’ll go chasin’ women).”
A Young Preacher’s Revival Meeting
In 1949, a young preacher went to Los Angeles to hold a revival meeting. As part of the publicity for the event, the publicists arranged for the evangelist to appear on Hamblen’s popular radio show. Although Hamblen was well known for his hard living, he had been reared by his Methodist minister father, so he welcomed the guest. During the show, the preacher invited Hamblen to attend the evening service, and he accepted.
The night after attending the service, Hamblen went to the preacher’s hotel at 4 a.m. and asked to talk. The result was Hamblen’s giving his life to Christ. But that is not the end of the story.
After his conversion, Hamblen quit drinking. Determined to devote his time to serving Jesus, he started a new radio program called The Cowboy Church of the Air, which became nationally syndicated. He lost the show the next year when he refused to accept advertising for alcohol.
His Friend John
Then one day Hamblen ran into his friend John on the street. The friend asked if it was true that Stuart had changed his ways. Hamblen assured him that it was true, that it was no secret what God could do, and that God could do it for him, too.
The friend said, “That sounds catchy, Stuart, you oughta write a song with that title.” The result was “It Is No Secret What God Can Do,” one of Hamblen’s best and best-known tunes:
“It is no secret what God can do.
What He’s done for others, He’ll do for you.
With arms wide open, He’ll welcome you.
It is no secret, what God can do.”
This uplifting and inspirational hymn became a crossover song that was the first to have been No. 1 in the Gospel, country, and pop categories. The original manuscript is enclosed in the cornerstone of one of the copyright buildings of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
By the way, the friend was the famous actor, John Wayne, and the young preacher who agreed to talk with Stuart Hamblen in the middle of the night was legendary evangelist Billy Graham.
“Without God, we cannot; without us, God will not.”
‘Cast Your Nets’
For a moment, stop and think of that miraculous catch of fish as reported in the Gospels by the four evangelists. The apostles were seasoned fishermen, who knew the times, the seasons and the weather conditions for a good catch. However, after slaving one entire night, they had to return disappointed and empty-handed.
There on the shore was Jesus, waiting to greet them. “Friends,” he inquired, “how did you fare?” “Not well at all,” answered Peter, the captain of the crew. “Don’t be upset,” said Jesus, “do as I tell you. Cast your nets to the right of the boat and you will draw a good catch.”
Peter and the other members of the crew were skeptical, in fact cynical, for Jesus was an itinerant preacher, not a fisherman. He was obviously crossing boundaries without any legitimate reason. “However,” agreed Peter somewhat reluctantly, “if you insist, we will do as you say.”
So they went back out and cast their nets to the right of their fishing boat, as directed by Jesus. To their stunned disbelief they drew in so many fish that their nets were literally stretched to the breaking point. Unable to cope with the enormous haul, they signaled to their companions on the beach and urged them to come to their aid.
On reaching the shore, Peter was so remorseful for having been skeptical and even cynical, that he fell on his knees and earnestly pleaded with Jesus, “Lord, please leave me, for I am a sinful man!” “Don’t even think about it, Peter, for from now on you are going to be a fisher of men.”
And that is just what Peter was chosen to be — the one to whom it was promised that whatever he bound on earth would be bound in heaven and whatever he loosed on earth would be loosed in heaven, the Rock on which Christ Jesus would build His Church, and that the gates of hell would never prevail against it. That was His absolute and guaranteed assurance. In a word, Christ Jesus exceeded the expectations of Peter beyond his wildest imagination.
Without God, we cannot; without us, God will not.
‘God Bless You’
They walked in tandem, each of the 92 students filing into the already crowded auditorium. With their flowing maroon gowns and their tasseled mortarboard caps, they looked as impressive as any group of qualified, enterprising and proficient professionals.
In the audience, their proud and jubilant parents waited with bated breath. The fathers wore expressions of legitimate pride and joy; heir mothers discreetly brushed tears from their eyes. Regrettably, this class of graduates would not begin the evening with a prayer — not by choice, but because of a recent court order prohibiting it.
As rehearsed, the deputed students walked up to the microphone and made their well-prepared and inspirational speeches. But there was no mention of divine guidance; nor did anyone ask for blessings on the graduates and their families.
Finally, the valedictorian walked up the microphone and delivered his speech. When he finished, the other 91 students walked up to the stage and in an orderly way lined up behind the speaker. At a given signal, all 92 sneezed in unison. Without batting an eyelid, the student at the microphone, serving as the spokesman, said to the audience: “GOD BLESS YOU!”
The audience stood up and exploded into spontaneous and prolonged applause. Their faces were glowing with pride to see the entire graduating class find a unique way to invoke God’s blessings on their future with or without the court’s approval.
This is a true story. It happened at Eastern Short District High School in Musquodoboit Harbour, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Without God, we cannot; without us, God will not.
FATHER VALLADARES is a diocesan priest and an educational and counselling psychologist who is serving the archdiocese of Adelaide, South Australia.