92: Rick Warren

92: Rick Warren

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Billy Graham & Me

• 92 •

Bestselling author, visionary leader and founder of The PEACE Plan and Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California

Billy has been, first and foremost, an evangelist of the Good News. But in close second place he’s always been an encourager of Christian leaders. I think of all the international conferences he planned and paid for to encourage those in ministry. As I’ve traveled the globe, I’ve met ministers everywhere who were also personally encouraged by Billy Graham.

Billy has been one of my seven life mentors for nearly thirty years. His invaluable leadership advice and his personal encouragement, especially in the early years of Saddleback Church, often kept me going when I felt like giving up. I could share example after example of his encouragement, including the fact that Billy was the first person to endorse The Purpose Driven Life, even before I’d finished the manuscript. But let me share just one incident that demonstrates the encouraging heart of this spiritual giant.

For fifty years, Billy either preached or prayed at most U.S. President inaugurations. When illness prevented him from praying at President George W. Bush’s first inauguration, Franklin took his place. Four years later, President Bush asked me to give the invocation at the opening celebration of his second inauguration week. It was bitterly cold, and I told myself, “If I ever do this again, I’ve got to get a hat to stay warm!”

Well, four years later, President Obama asked me to pray the invocation at his inauguration, so I promptly went out and bought a nice hat from a store in West Hollywood. But I left it in a hotel room a few days later and it was stolen. I was disappointed, but had no time to buy another.

To this day, I still don’t know how Billy found out about my hat loss. But about a week later, an unexpected package arrived at my home. Inside, carefully wrapped, was a beautiful black Homburg hat from Billy Graham! It was the hat Billy had worn at the inaugurations where he’d prayed! Attached was this note: “It’s your turn, Rick. It’s your hour. This is your hat now.” Tears filled my eyes. Once again I saw the greatness of my mentor, his deep love for others, and his encouraging heart. 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!

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