Chicken Soup for the Soul culls together 101 personal stories from a wide array of individuals — from world leaders to newsmakers and all points in between — in one, inspiring collection of remembrances of author, preacher and evangelist Billy Graham. Here's an excerpt.
Since 1993, Chicken Soup for the Soul — one of the world’s most iconic, recognizable and trusted brands, renowned for sharing uplifting stories — has inspired readers all over the world with more than 500 million copies of its 250 or so titles, translated into more than forty languages.
But (this work) is unique and unprecedented, marking the only time in its twenty-year history that the Chicken Soup for the Soul series has focused on a single individual — evangelist Billy Graham. Regardless of your familiarity with Mr. Graham or your identification with his message, more important than the person are the transferable principles by which he lives his life.
This original anthology contains 101 personal and anecdotal stories by some of the most significant world-changers and influential leaders in government, business, sports, entertainment and religion, as well as friends and relatives of Mr. Graham who know him best.
Just as Billy Graham’s influence and impact transcends religious, racial and political boundaries, so does the list of contributors to this volume as they reveal and confirm his place in history. Prominent Christian pastors, leaders from other faiths, celebrities, heroes, regular citizens — and remarkably, every living U.S. President — collectively document the effects of Mr. Graham’s worldwide ministry over more than six decades.
Contributors include a sheer diversity of leadership representing myriad professions, geographical locations, political persuasions and faith traditions, all of whom coalesce around the common denominator of utmost respect for one individual — including those who do not share his perspective or worldview.
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Because Mr. Graham never compromised his integrity nor watered down his message to achieve consensus or reach critical mass, it is his character and integrity that have engendered such an unprecedented tribute. In a sense, this celebration of friendship and influence is a first look at the evangelist’s legacy — while he is still alive.
(From the Foreword by A. Larry Ross, spokesperson for Rev. Billy Graham)
Actor, producer; star of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys; spokesman for A World Fit For Kids!
In a movie called The Persecuted, I played a Billy Graham-type character. The movie takes a dim view of governments that restrict religious freedom. There’s a senator who is trying to pass a bill for a one-religion state, and I’m the biggest thorn in his side. My character says, “You can’t dumb down my religion, and you must allow everybody -- Buddhists, Muslims, Lutherans, whatever -- let them have the speech they want to have within their own religion. That’s part of freedom of speech.” He won’t budge, and he won’t back down, and he has the great power that speaking the truth gives him. Like Billy Graham, whose convictions gave him an incredible intensity that I first experienced in real life when I attended one of Billy Graham’s revivals back in 1973.
It was in St. Paul, Minnesota. I’m from the Minneapolis area, and I went with a big church group, including my friend Jeff. I was about thirteen years old. I had always considered myself a Christian, but I was absolutely blown away by what Billy Graham was saying. It was a hot, humid August night, the sky was so dark, and the stars were so bright. That evening is something that has stuck with me all my life.
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There were 60,000-70,000 people there. Billy Graham asked people to come up at the end if they wanted to give their lives over to Christ. Jeff and I walked up and met one of Billy Graham’s associates. We sat and prayed and talked for a really long time. That was a very special night for me.
Before I went to that revival, the only preacher I’d heard was our pastor. He was a Bible-banger, spouting horrible warnings about hellfire and damnation, even breathing seemed to be a sin. I was already starting to get rebellious about church, but it wasn’t like I was barking against God; I just didn’t like the way my pastor was preaching.
I remember saying to my mom, driving home one day, “You know, I don’t think God’s that angry at us.” I think inherently we all know what’s right and what’s wrong. If we do something wrong, we know it.
That night in St. Paul, I discovered what an amazing orator Billy Graham is. I remember looking around at the faces, watching the tens of thousands of people listening with rapt attention to what this man had to say.
That was during the Vietnam War, and I remember that at dinner we would watch the war and all the protests on TV. There was so much hate and anger. And yet to hear this man Billy Graham speak, with tens of thousands of people around, and see people be so positive, showed me what a great speaker could offer the world.
I still remember Billy Graham that night, saying, in effect, “Look in the mirror, and push yourself past whatever you think are the problems out there, and stop blaming the world.” His message was a strong one for parents, schools and communities about responsibility. It was very inspiring.
“A World Fit for Kids!” is an after-school program I’ve been the spokesperson for over the last fifteen years. We serve 12,000 children in poor communities, from first grade to twelfth. We teach them healthy choices and job preparedness, but most importantly, we teach them personal responsibility. I tell these kids not to start blaming everybody else but to learn to make a better life for themselves, to “look in the mirror,” as Graham would say, and believe in themselves.
Billy Graham played a big part in making me who I am today. It began on that one night in 1973 when there was something in me, even at such a young age, that was ready to accept his words.
Kevin Sorbo is an actor, producer and director; star of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys; spokesman for A World Fit For Kids. This excerpt from “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Billy Graham & Me” is provided courtesy of Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC, Copyright 2013.
© 2012 MSNBC Interactive