"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

President Gerald R. Ford: A Tribute

I am setting aside my intended post to give a personal tribute to a man who in the early 1990's gave to me a very unique moment of kindness -- President Gerald R. Ford. Quite a bit will be said in the next few days about this former President who will go down in history as the only United States President never to be elected by the people to the office. I would like to offer a personal reflection regarding President Ford's kindness.

The year was 1990. America was involved in the First Gulf War. Police Officer Kevin Johnson and I were in an unmarked vehicle in downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma when we decided to pull in front of the 15th Street Grill to eat lunch. I was surprised that there were several parking places available in front of this very popular restaurant during the noon hour, but was delighted to be able to park right in front of the restaurant.

When we got out of the car a man in a dark suit and sunglasses came up to us and said, "Gentlemen, I am going to have to ask you to move your car."

Officer Johnson, who at the time was working in the robbery division of the Tulsa Police Department, replied, "Sir, we are about to eat at the 15th Street Grill and we are parked in their reserved customer parking."

The stranger responded, "Sirs, I still must ask you to move your car."

Officer Johnson pulled out his badge and held it up for the man to see. "My name is Kevin Johnson, I am an officer for the Tulsa Police Department. This is Chaplain Wade Burleson. We are 10-7 for one hour and looking forward to lunch. This is a TPD vehicle, legally parked, and we will not move the car."

The man then pulled out his badge, held it up and said in a very calm voice, "My name is Steve Smith. I work for the Secret Service of the United States government. My badge is bigger than your badge, you need to move your car."

We moved our car.

Former President Gerald Ford was in Tulsa visiting his daughter and they both decided to have lunch at the same restaurant, at the same time, Kevin and I decided to have lunch.

After moving our car we went in and sat down at a table in a corner of the room. The restaurant was filled with agents due to the heightened security as a result of the Gulf War, and when Gerald Ford came into the restaurant with his daughter the agents formed a protective cocoon around the Fords.

I told Kevin that I would like to visit with the former President and he laughed and said I would not even get close to be able to talk to him. I waited till we were through with lunch and tried go visit with him.

Kevin was right! The agents stopped me before I could even get within twenty feet. However, the President must have seen the commotion and he told the agents to let me through. I introduced myself to the President Ford and his daughter and he graciously asked me to sit down. For the next few minutes we conversed about Tulsa, his family, the War and my ministry in Tulsa and his faith in God.

I was really shocked at the kindness the former President was showing me. I asked him if I could have an autograph and he said he could do much better than that. He asked for my business card, which I gave him, and he said he would send me something in the mail in a few days.

Two weeks later I received an official autographed Presidential photograph of President Gerald R. Ford with a very nice letter attached.

The day I received the package from the former President I determined then and there never to put off anyone who ever wanted to speak to me, talk to me, or requested something of me, no matter who it was. If this man who had been at one time in his life the most powerful man in the world would take the time to be kind to a complete stranger who desired just a moment of his time, then surely this preacher could show the same kindness to complete strangers as well.

The country will observe the burial of former President Gerald R. Ford in three days. Many pundits will offer views of his Presidency, both good and bad. This preacher simply thanks the Lord for my providential encounter with President Ford because through it, God taught me about the powerful impact a person can have on the 'little guys' of this world.

I close this small tribute with what I believe to be two of the best quotes from President Gerald R. Ford:

___________________________

It's good to be in the great state of Oklahoma, the home of Will Rogers who never met a man he didn't like, and the Oklahoma Sooners who never met a team they couldn't beat .

Gerald Ford, Presidential Campaign Speech in Oklahoma City, Spring 1976

___________________________

I ask again you prayers . . . With all the strength and all the good sense I have gained from life, with all the confidence my family, my friends, and my dedicated staff impart to me, and with the good will of countless Americans I have encountered in recent visits to 40 States, I now solemnly reaffirm my promise I made to you last December 6: to uphold the Constitution, to do what is right as God gives me to see the right, and to do the very best I can for America.

God helping me, I will not let you down.


Gerald R. Ford's Closing Remarks on Taking the Oath of Office as President, August 9, 1974

__________________________



In His Grace,


Wade Burleson

23 comments:

CB Scott said...

Wade,

Thank you for this good story. I do believe we need men of President Ford's character in our government today.

He was an humble man. I remember when he took office he said: "I am a Ford. I am not a Lincoln."

His humility was an example for the nation, and his strength was evidence we would survive a hard time in our history. May God grant comfort to his family.

cb

IMBLITS said...

Vert, very nice. Thanks.

IMBLITS said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nomad said...

Wade,

That was a very nice tribute. I love to hear about close encounters with folks like that; especially when they have good ending.

Blessings.

TruthOfActs said...

Wade,
“Life’s evening sun is sinking low,
A few more days and I must go,
To meet the deed that I have done,
Where there will be no setting sun.”

That was one of my father’s favorite songs. He meet that “deed” at 93—the same as Ford.

Ford restored the much needed confidence that America needed in our government. Of course, it’s had its ups and downs since then.

He was a great man. I’m glad you had the chance to meet him as your interesting and funny account revealed.

Someday, I’m going to take you up on your statement: “…never to put off anyone who…requested something of me…”
Rex Ray

John Moeller said...

Isn’t it cool how God continually, divinely, intersects paths for his kids so they can experience such marvelous things in their lives!!!! You could have learned that same lesson from anyone, but God chose President Ford, a little diner, and that specific moment in time just for you.

Debbie said...

John Moeller: I like the way you think.:)

Kevin Bussey said...

Wade,

Thanks for sharing that story. I loved President Ford and am grateful for his service to our country.

Steve A said...

President Ford was a great example of serving when it is not easy or fun, when things are tough, and working through it all with graciousness while holding on to what you know to be true. If everyone with a role in the Kingdom can remember that we'll all be the richer for it.

David R. Mills said...

My Dad played football for Creston High School in Grand Rapids, and played against President Ford who went to South High School. We were having a big country rally in the Church I pastored in Michigan at his time as President and I wrote him telling him about my Dad, and inviting him to the Church to celebrate the rally with us. Of course he could not come to the Church, but he sent a letter that was fabulous with personal reference to my Dad. Now I don't know if that was his letter or one he sent to everybody, and don't anyone tell me, but he was an incredible man for sure. One of the few "statesman" in politics, don't we all wish we had a bunch more!!! I still got the letter, and no it will be for sale on e-bay.

jasonk said...

Great story Wade. Thanks for sharing it, and reminding people that pastors above all should be approachable, especially if the former president can.

Winning Truth w/Tim Guthrie said...

Great post about a great guy!

Greg Hicks said...

President Ford was an humble, hospitable man. I was in Washington, DC on a "Young Americans Close Up" Foundation visit during my junior year of high school. The "Young Americans" from Grand Rapids, MI (his former congressional district) was in Washington the same week and the President invited us all to visit the White House. He greeted each participant as we strolled through the Oval Office. It made quite the impression.

martyduren said...

My favorite Ford quote:

"Any government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have."

Pro-Life Christian said...

President Ford was rabidly pro-abortion. I'm more than a bit disgusted and disturbed to read such plaudits to him on a blog by a conservative evangelical Christian pastor and commenters who are professing Christians.

The fact that he endorsed the slaughter of innocent preborn children casts a long and dark shadow on anything and everything else he did. The late president has now either been confronted by the sight of multiple millions of murdered innocents in Heaven or is now being judged for his sin in Hell.

Either way, he is not worthy of the applause he's receiving at this blog.

Wade Burleson said...

"The late president has now either been confronted by the sight of multiple millions of murdered innocents in Heaven."

Stay strong in your pro-life views. Work hard on obtaining better theology.

Babies are not innocent. They are sinners like everyone else ('the wages of sin is death'), but they are in heaven because of God's grace in election, Christ's death as a substitute, and the Spirit's regenerating power.

In other words, they get to heaven the same way any sinner gets to heaven.

It's all of God.

Pro-Life Christian said...

"Babies are not innocent. They are sinners like everyone else ('the wages of sin is death'), but they are in heaven because of God's grace in election, Christ's death as a substitute, and the Spirit's regenerating power. In other words, they get to heaven the same way any sinner gets to heaven. It's all of God."

As a fellow Reformed evangelical, I'm well aware of the fact that all of us are guilty and condemned before God from conception. I don't think you gave me the benefit of the most charitable interpretation of my post, pastor. Preborn children murdered by abortion are innocent in the same sense that any other victim of murder is innocent -- there is no Biblical justification for murder, as it is the sinful taking of human life (as opposed to killing, which sometimes is the Biblically-justified taking of human life). It's in that sense -- and that sense alone -- that they are "innocent." Would you disagree?

And I hope that you follow your own admonition to "work hard on obtaining better theology," brother. I'm concerned that your blog links to a man who mixes anti-Christian, humanistic, man-centered psychology with Biblical truth and calls it "Christian counseling." Perhaps our fellow Reformed evangelicals Jay E. Adams, John MacArthur, Wayne Mack, Al Mohler, Lou Priolo, or Stuart Scott could assist you in "obtaining better theology" when it comes to the counseling ministry of the church.

Wade Burleson said...

Mr. Pro-Life Christian . .

Were I to know your identity, ministry, and faithfulness over the years in service to Christ, I would take your admonition and advice under much more serious consideration than I am not knowing who you are.

Blessings,

Wade

Pro-Life Christian said...

"Were I to know your identity, ministry, and faithfulness over the years in service to Christ, I would take your admonition and advice under much more serious consideration than I am not knowing who you are."

Pastor Burleson,

Do we only reject the false philosophies of this world (such as so-called "Christian counseling") when we "know [the] identity, ministry, and faithfulness over the years in service to Christ" of the one who admonishes us? Would you please point me to the Scriptural proof for this viewpoint?

By the way, an internet search turned up the following interesting information:

"Kevin [Johnson] served for 25 years as a police officer with the Tulsa Police Department before coming on staff at GBC in 2005. He was ordained to the gospel ministry in 1991.

"Kevin is a certified counselor with the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors (NANC) and has completed the academic work for the Masters of Arts in Biblical Counseling through The Master's College. He directs the biblical counseling and discipleship ministries of the church.

"Kevin and his wife Betty have been married since 1979 and have two adult sons."

http://www.grace4u.org/

Is this the same Kevin Johnson mentioned in your post? If so, the website of the church at which he performs his nouthetic counseling ministry declares:

"The Scriptures of both the Old and the New Testaments are authoritative and sufficient for all the issues facing you in life. Many people say they believe in the authority of Scripture, but their practice denies its sufficiency to meet their needs. For example, 'Christian psychology' attempts to integrate various psychological theories and humanistic philosophies with the Scriptures because it lacks confidence in the Word of God to deal with a person's 'real' problems.

"Biblical counseling on the other hand, both in its message and method, is conducted with a commitment to the absolute sufficiency of Scripture as the means by which a Christian's spiritual problems must be addressed and solved. Christ taught that learning and applying Scripture is the starting point of change in our lives. Jesus prayed to his Father, 'Sanctify them in the Truth; Your Word is Truth' (John 17: 17).

"Attempting to integrate secular psychology and Scripture is a rejection of the Bible's claim to be sufficient for us! This approach to counseling only leads to confusion by blurring the lines between humanistic behavior modification and genuine spiritual sanctification."

http://www.grace4u.org/counseling.htm

You don't know me, but you obviously know Kevin Johnson, and he clearly agrees with those of us who are Reformed evangelicals who find so-called "Christian counseling" spurious. As you know his "identity, ministry, and faithfulness over the years in service to Christ," perhaps you will take his admonition and advice (as found on his church website) under serious consideration.

In Christ,

"Mr. Pro-Life Christian"

Wade Burleson said...

Mr. Pro-life Christian,

I agree with you regarding Biblical counseling. Kevin would as well. :)

Mr. Pro-Life Christian said...

Pastor Burleson,

Thanks for your graciousness in this exchange. As you wrote in the original post that prompted it:

"The day I received the package from the former President I determined then and there never to put off anyone who ever wanted to speak to me, talk to me, or requested something of me, no matter who it was. If this man who had been at one time in his life the most powerful man in the world would take the time to be kind to a complete stranger who desired just a moment of his time, then surely this preacher could show the same kindness to complete strangers as well."

This complete stranger thanks you for showing the same kindness that Mr. Ford showed to you. May God continue to bless you and your ministry as you faithfully serve Him.

Your Brother,

"Mr. PLC"

Wade Burleson said...

Thank you as well.

Wade

Tutorialblog said...

Very nice post. I for my self meet 2 chancellors and i can imagine how u must had feelt.

The thing with the letter is very nice and gives everybody a feeling of this person - very good and interesting post.

Please apologise my poor english.

Reg Marv
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