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In this story from March 1953, the beloved cowboy star reveals how his wife, Dale Evans, patiently but persistently invited him to know God.
Grace before meals became a regular thing. Cheryl, Linda and Roy, Jr., (the three children of my first marriage) were quick to take a part. Dale introduced a type of Grace where everyone said a sentence prayer.
I would squirm in my chair a little, hoping they wouldn’t notice me. So it went around the table, then “Why don’t you say something, Daddy?” Linda piped up.
Dale, God bless her, is the smartest and most loving woman in the world. She didn’t press me; but she never lets go of an idea she thinks is right.
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Later, when I tried to explain my feelings to Dale, she would say, “The Lord gave you many talents, Roy. Some you use well for yourself, but there are some you haven’t developed at all for Him.
"If you could learn to let God speak through you, honey, you could make a good speech every time–and not die doing it.”
I didn’t know what she meant at first. To some people, religion may come in one big emotional experience. I moved to it a step at a time: regular attendance at church, reading a few passages from the Bible, saying Grace.
A warm quality grew into our family life. It was a spiritual kind of love that makes you want to do something for others.
A group of people in Hollywood began to get together and talk about all these things, people like Tim Spencer, Red Harper, Colleen Townsend, Jane Russell, Mrs. Henrietta Meers, Connie Haines, Joyce Compton, Dale, myself and others.
We would meet at different homes, some of us bringing along extra chairs. There was prayer for the problems of others; several would speak, of religion out of their own experience.
I never had enough education to understand theology, but when a fellow like Tim Spencer [co-founder of the vocal group The Sons of the Pioneers] stands up before a group like this and tells frankly how his belief in Jesus Christ helped him change from a drunk to a hard-working citizen, then Christianity comes alive to me.
One day I discovered that I actually looked forward to saying the blessing at mealtime. It may sound corny, but I could hardly wait for my turn. I began to appreciate the wholesome things that happen in each area of life when you’re right with God. Not that I don’t have plenty far to go.
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As I said before, Dale is a mighty smart woman. She helped bring something new into our family life, but not at the sacrifice of other things we enjoyed, like outdoor sports. We still like to ride, fish, hunt and camp out.
The biggest triumph came when I used Dale’s suggestion about speaking in public. The occasion was like many others. The music part I handled without any fear, but when it came time to say a few words, I felt the same old nervous symptoms.
Then I closed my eyes for just a moment and said silently, “Lord, I’ll just make a mess of things on my own. Help me to relax a little so that what I say to these people will really mean something.”
I started to talk and found myself saying things I’d never said before. And they came out as naturally as though I was just standing there and someone else was talking. From that time, I’ve never had more than the normal amount of nervousness.
Somehow it doesn’t make any difference now whether the group is simple farm folk or sophisticated New Yorkers, the things I try to say are the same.