Monday, November 17, 2008

Faith - one thing no one can take from you...

Faith - one thing no one can take from you...except yourself. (a book review)

Earl Nightingale said often that the most valuable things in life were given to you free and you couldn't pay to get them back - such as your health and your capacity for thought.

Faith, as laid out by McKay and Abraham in their new book "Billy" - faith is one of these precious and incredibly valuable items which only you can put there and only you can take away.

This story starts and ends with the problems that one of the best friends Billy Graham ever had - he lost his faith and became an agnostic/atheist for the rest of his life. Through an interview on what later became his deathbed, we see the life of Billy Graham from his beginnings on a dairy farm through his decision to follow his call to the ministry and also to the most important incident of his life.

By comparing these two individuals, McKay and Abraham do not tell a cloying, over-pious, up-on-a-pedestal version of Graham's life - but they tell a story of that individual who was as human as the rest of us, warts and all.

Through the eyes of Charles Templeton, we see that talent plays no favorites - that a person of immense talent can yet ruin his own life through the different choices he makes in life. Talent doesn't prepare one for the depths of personal doubts and doesn't prevent anyone from the pitfalls each of us face.

But luck can fall to those who aren't as gifted or talented or brilliant. In Graham's case (as related by the authors through Templeton) the most average among us can live incredibly lucky lives and have all sorts of good fortune shine down on us. Templeton was gifted, physically and mentally - capable of putting women into a swoon and grown men into immediate respect, all with a glance and a word. He also had a native talent for illustration and as an athlete.

Graham and Templeton were best friends and lived through many adventures as up-and-coming evangelists. Why Graham went on to international fame and Templeton to relative obscurity is the question this book raises.

And perhaps the answer is too simple, too pat. But you don't see what this answer is until the end pages of the book. Skilfully drawn through the pages by the narrative, I found myself immersed in the life of Billy Graham and his counterpart, Templeton. Of course the story is all about Graham, but you also find the story of Templeton. One succeeds - and endures that same night on the mountain much as Jesus did, finding that his faith was paramount to all obstacles. The other finds that his faith fails him and so turns his back on his success, his wife, and his friends - to go seek an intellectual reasoning for the world around him.

Templeton has no real explanations for the lucky breaks Graham had - and how he rose to incredible fame and success. Instead, Templeton grouses about these breaks over and over.

I haven't seen the movie, but I can see why someone wanted to make it into one. This is an incredibly powerful narrative and one which has lessons for anyone in our modern times - where we are presented with all types and kinds of opportunities. As well, we are presented with every trial that can be faced by any person living on this planet.

Each one of us can be - and has been - tried in our faith as these authors describe the ordeals Graham experienced, and as well those of his best friend Templeton.

And so this book is a personal tale - personal to everyone who seeks answers to life and yet finds all roads lead back to oneself, one's own ideas - and ultimately, one's personal faith.

So I recommend this book to anyone and everyone who can read it. Life is meant to be lived. And faith is a cornerstone for living.

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Next up: Think and Make it Happen - Stay Tuned...

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