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JACKSONVILLE (FBW)—Recognizing evangelist Billy Graham’s ability to inspire leaders from diverse faith groups and disciplines, Chicken Soup for the Soul this month released a unique book of stories and recollections honoring Graham for his influence throughout the past six decades. It is the first time in its 20-year-history, the book will honor a single individual.
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Billy Graham & Me is comprised of entries from 101 contributors, including Super Bowl winning coach Tony Dungy, a member of Central Baptist Church in Tampa; Richard Land, president of Southern Baptists’ Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission; Thom Rainer, president of Lifeway Christian Resources; and Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Community Church, Lake Forest, Calif.
Chicken Soup also contains stories from Graham’s own daughters Anne and Ruth, and his sister Jean Ford, who honor him for his authenticity, and his lifelong ministry partner, Cliff Barrows.
Dungy tells the story of introducing Graham to a crusade crowd inside the newly built Raymond James Stadium when he coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“It was like being at a game when the game had just ended,” Dungy wrote. “Everyone got up. It was amazing to sit there and watch and see the upper decks totally emptying and people coming down onto the field. It was one of the greatest thrills of my life.”
Talking about the many highly influential people he has met, Dungy said he was “struck” by Graham’s humility and his calling.
Warren notes Graham either preached or prayed at most U.S. President inaugurations for 50 years. The California mega-church pastor said he gave the invocation at the opening celebration of President George W. Bush’s second inauguration, and was asked to do the same for President Obama, four years later.
So anticipating the same bitter cold weather he encountered at Bush’s inauguration, he bought a hat, which he left in a hotel room where it was stolen.
Apparently, Graham learned of Warren’s mishap and sent him a “beautiful black Homburg hat.”
“It was the hat Billy had worn at the inaugurations where he’d prayed!” Warren wrote. “Attached was this note: ‘It’s your turn, Rick. It’s your hour. This is your hat now.’ … I wore Billy’s hat when I prayed on the Capitol steps at that 2009 inauguration. Billy was unable to attend, but once again, his influence was present. Thank you Billy, thoughtful friend and encourager to millions!”
Calling Graham “the hero” of his boyhood, Land said his father was saved at a Billy Graham Crusade in Houston, Texas, in the early 1950s.
Of Graham’s charisma, Land said, “The Holy Spirit has touched him.”
In terms of Evangelical Christianity reengaging the culture, Billy Graham is the man who really did it, on a mass level,” Land wrote. “And he gave us, the Evangelicals, both the model for how to do it and the confidence with which to do it. There would not have been a modern evangelical movement without him. And I love the guy. He was a hero to me in my boyhood, and he remains a hero to me today.”
Rainer wrote when he was dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, he met Graham. Years later he visited Graham at his home in Montreat, N.C.
“I came away from that visit uplifted by Dr. Graham’s simple teaching: perspective,” Rainer said.
Every living U.S. President and many other influential world leaders contributed to the book, as well as artists and athletes such as Wynonna Judd, Charlie Daniels, Danny Wuerffel and NASCAR driver Jason Allgaeir. Other celebrities who share their personal experiences with Graham include media personalities such as Dan Rather, Larry King, Kyra Phillips and Kathie Lee Gifford, actors Cheryl Ladd, Kevin Sorbo, and Kathy Ireland.
Contributors such as Bernice King and John Lewis give voice to Graham’s commitment to civil rights and racial equality.
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Billy Graham & Me is in stores everywhere, and Chicken Soup for the Soul is making a contribution to support the ongoing ministry of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
For more information, go online to chickensoup.com.
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