Regardless of one's spiritual beliefs, political leanings or age, it's hard to deny the impressive influence and appeal of Billy Graham, world-renowned author, preacher and evangelist. Presidents past and present have requested his prayers and presence during times of crisis. Celebrities as well as the not-so-celebrated find comfort in his humble message and unpretentious manner.
At a time when cultural heroes, athletes, politicians — even Elmo — continually let us down, Billy Graham continues to lift us up and serves as a true American icon.
The publishers of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series appreciate the unprecedented impact Billy Graham has had on people of all faiths, races, genders, age and politics. For the first time in the brand's twenty-year history, it has published a Chicken Soup for the Soul book focusing on one individual — Billy Graham.
Billy Graham & Me: 101 Inspiring Personal Stories from Presidents, Pastors, Performers, and Other People Who Know Him Well, edited by Steve Posner and Amy Newmark, celebrates and honors the calm yet courageous man known as "God's Ambassador." The sheer diversity of the contributors attests to the wide appeal of the man who regularly preaches to others to not be judgmental and to model love.
As Steve Posner mentions in the book's introduction, "The personal stories in this book show us why so many individuals from differing faiths, nationalities, and political beliefs regard Billy Graham as a touchstone of goodness." Posner points out that although there have been numerous books and articles written on Billy Graham since he was first catapulted to fame in 1949, the stories in this collection "give us an inside glimpse of the ways in which the everyday Billy Graham has lived as a loving father, brother, grandfather, uncle, mentor, pastor, statesman, and friend."
Contributors to Billy Graham & Me include Tony Blair, Dan Rather, Barack Obama, Wynonna Judd, Ricky Skaggs, Philip Yancy, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Roseanne Cash and many, many more (101 total, in fact). Plus, there are more than 40 historic photos of Billy Graham with family and friends — including Ronald Reagan, Charlie Daniels, Pope John Paul II and hip-hop artist tobyMac — and an evocative afterward by Billy Graham.
What I loved about the book: Billy Graham seems to have always been a part of our culture as long as I remember, yet I was never incredibly familiar with his extensive work and influence across the globe, in large ways and small. I was touched by the deeply personal accounts and recollections of Graham shared by the public figures who have had the privilege of meeting him, working with him, or just plain counting on his message to give them strength during tough times.
Plus, the photo section made me think of my father. Not in the figurative sense, the father with a capital F, but my father, my dad, whom I've always thought looked strikingly similar to Billy Graham, especially in both their younger years. Even more so, one of my uncles — who, interestingly enough, was once a pastor — looks even more like Billy Graham, back in the day as well as now.
Mostly, though, I loved the way the stories moved me and made it clear there really are American heroes who surely won't fall from their pedestals. At a time when I've been questioning many so-called heroes of our culture, the words about and from Billy Graham came through for me in unexpected ways.
Billy Graham & Me: 101 Inspiring Personal Stories from Presidents, Pastors, Performers, and Other People Who Know Him Well, published February 2013, has a suggested price of $24.95 (hardcover) and can be found nearly any place books are sold, in hardcover and electronic versions.
The publishers of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series have graciously offered to give two random winners a hardcover copy of Billy Graham & Me: 101 Inspiring Personal Stories from Presidents, Pastors, Performers, and Other People Who Know Him Well. Giveaway entries accepted via Rafflecopter (below), through midnight MST April 3. The two winners will be drawn April 4 and contacted by email for shipping information.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of the book for review, as well as the offer of two copies for giveaway, to be shipped by the brand.