Lent: Thoughts for March 2

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My Friend, Frances Dee

Once in awhile we stumble into a friendship that is improbable and beyond our wildest imagination.  Such a thing happened to me over a decade ago when I became “giggle girl friends” with the Hollywood legend Frances Dee.  At the time she was in her nineties.  My father had a fit over my friendship with her because she was one of his all time favorite movie stars.  He never had the opportunity to meet her.

We would go for lunch in Roswell.  Her late daughter in law, Lou, would either bring her to meet me or I would pick her up, or take her home.  We would shop, have long lunches, and do a lot of talking.

One day, while we were at Red Lobster, she pulled a little book out of her purse and handed it to me.  She told me this was the most important gift she could give to me.  It was Henry Drummond’s The Greatest Thing in the World.

She opened the book and began reading 1 Corinthians 13.  There I was sitting across the table from one of the legendary stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age, listening to her as she read about Christ’s love.  She told me if I could live my life by 1 Corinthians 13, my life would be a success.

When she finished reading that passage, she opened the Drummond book and read the following:

“…I have said this thing is eternal. Did you ever notice how continually John associates love and faith with eternal life? I was not told when I was a boy that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should have everlasting life.” What I was told, I remember, was, that God so loved the world that, if I trusted in Him, I was to have a thing called peace, or I was to have rest, or I was to have joy, or I was to have safety. But I had to find out for myself that whosoever trusteth in Him–that is, whosoever loveth Him, for trust is only the avenue to Love–hath everlasting life The Gospel offers a man life. Never offer men a thimbleful of Gospel. Do not offer them merely joy, or merely peace, or merely rest, or merely safety; tell them how Christ came to give men a more abundant life than they have, a life abundant in love, and therefore abundant in salvation for themselves, and large in enterprise for the alleviation and redemption of the world. Then only can the Gospel take hold of the whole of a man, body, soul, and spirit, and give to each part of his nature its exercise and reward. Many of the current Gospels are addressed only to a part of man’s nature. They offer peace, not life; faith, not Love; justification, not regeneration. And men slip back again from such religion because it has never really held them. Their nature was not all in it. It offered no deeper and gladder life-current than the life that was lived before. Surely it stands to reason that only a fuller love can compete with the love of the world.

To love abundantly is to live abundantly, and to love for ever is to live for ever. Hence, eternal life is inextricably bound up with love We want to live for ever for the same reason that we want to live tomorrow. Why do you want to live tomorrow? It is because there is some one who loves you, and whom you want to see tomorrow, and be with, and love back. There is no other reason why we should live on than that we love and are beloved. It is when a man has no one to love him that he commits suicide. So long as he has friends, those who love him and whom he loves, he will live; because to live is to love. Be it but the love of a dog, it will keep him in life; but let that go and he has no contact with life, no reason to live. The “energy of life” has failed. Eternal life also is to know God, and God is love. This is Christ’s own definition. Ponder it. “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.” Love must be eternal. It is what God is. On the last analysis, then, love is life. Love never faileth, and life never faileth, so long as there is love. That is the philosophy of what Paul is showing us; the reason why in the nature of things Love should be the supreme thing–because it is going to last; because in the nature of things it is an Eternal Life. That Life is a thing that we are living now, not that we get when we die; that we shall have a poor chance of getting when we die unless we are living now. No worse fate can befall a man in this world than to live and grow old alone, unloving, and unloved. To be lost is to live in an unregenerate condition, loveless and unloved; and to be saved is to love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth already in God. For God is love….”

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3 thoughts on “Lent: Thoughts for March 2

  1. SJ, I was deeply moved by this message. I’m an admirer of both Frances Dee and Joel McCrea. Our family lives near their Santa Rosa ranch and I’m well aware of their generosity to our community. I read an interview with Peter McCrea in which he talked of his mother’s spiritual growth through her reading of philosophy and world religions and through her acts of kindness. He mentioned that when she was a widow in her eighties (and one of the wealthiest women in California, I might add) she volunteered in a soup kitchen in downtown L.A. and took the bus! I thought when I read Peter’s interview how I would loved to have had Frances as a friend and mentor for my own spiritual journey. Through your lovely story, I feel as if I do have Frances as a friend and guide. Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. Thank you so much!

    I adored Mrs. McCrea. She was one of the most remarkable people I ever met. I knew she was quite comfortable, but she never flashed what she had, just lived the life of a decent very old woman who had a wonderful story to tell. She loved the Lord! She was so full of kindness, and abject love of Christ. And so beautiful! Even in her mid-90s she was beautiful. I got a kick out of her beauty regime – a packet of mayo and a packet of honey!

    Thank you so much for sharing.

    SJR

  3. I am reminded that Frances Dee McCrea passed away 6 years ago today. I’ve read that she was working on her autobiography and I would enjoy reading the “wonderful story” you say she had to tell. I hope it will be published soon. In the meantime, I’m going to start using mayo and honey!

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