Each month we ask faith, business and nonprofit leaders to answer a light-hearted question designed to help people get to know them better and bridge our community. This month, Good News Wants to Know… What book, story or movie has been a life changer or path changer for you (aside from the Bible)?
Nothing Like It In The World: The Men Who Built The Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869 by Stephen E. Ambrose – The building of the transcontinental railroad changed the way people and goods moved across the U.S., ultimately changing the world. It is important to note that Congress committed funds to build the transcontinental railroad in the middle of one of the darkest periods in US history – the Civil War (1861-1865). The difficulty of those days is almost unfathomable today. Therefore a key lesson from this book, that has been transformative in my own personal life and leadership, is that one cannot wait until things are good again to invest in the future. That has been my model ever since: “belt-tightening” during hard times while simultaneously investing in the future allows one (and organizations) to come through crisis stronger than before.
Dr. Debra A. Schwinn, President, Palm Beach Atlantic University
I have found the final scenes in two movies particularly impacting. In “Gladiator” the movie concludes with the freed slaves, the soldiers and the senate honoring “a solder of Rome” and then his Ethiopian, gladiator comrade looks up in the empty colosseum and says: “We are free. We will see each other again. But not yet.” In “Saving Private Ryan,” as Ryan ages before our eyes at the Omaha Beach grave of Captain John Miller who saved his life he is haunted by Miller’s final words: “Earn this” and says: “I’ve tried to live my life the best I could. I hope that it was enough” and then looks to his wife and says: “Tell me I’ve lived a good life. Tell me I’m a good man.”
William “Bill” C Davell, Director, Tripp Scott, PA
This was not an easy question to answer as I have read several path defining books during this pandemic. The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson reminded me “Prayer puts us in a spiritual frame of mind. Prayer helps us see and seize the God-ordained opportunities that are around us all the time” and “God doesn’t settle for a good option but the Best option.”
Char Talmadge, Director, Rescue Upstream
Shane Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution radically changed my world view. I used to be a clean kid that loved people poorly. I now hope to be a guy that loves people well and gets dirty in the process. Shane, Tony Campolo and Donald Miller all wrote books that pushed me in that direction.
Bob Denison, President, Denison Yachting
I enjoy reading biographies, especially of political leaders and entrepreneurs. If I had to pick a specific book that changed my path or provided direction for my path, it would be “Lincoln.” The adversity that President Lincoln faced, from his political adversaries to the loss of a child, did not deter him from working towards his goal. Many would have thrown in the towel at many times throughout his time in office, but he knew that his work was right and just.
Chip LaMarca, State Representative, Florida House District 93
One book that has really had an impact on me is One Minute After You Die by Erwin Lutzer. This is the premise of the book: One minute after you die you will either be elated or terrified. And it will be too late to reroute your travel plans. It is a great reminder for me to focus on what really matters and that is my relationship with God and spreading the Gospel.
Chris Lane, President First Priority of South Florida
For me, the works of Rudyard Kipling were very formative. I loved The Jungle Books, but most of all his poem “If.” Those and “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Alfred Lord Tennyson, spoke to the idealistic man inside my boy’s heart and inspired me to reach for greater things, to dream big and to do hard things. I was glad that my father read them to me and my brother, Austin, and inspired us to be strong men.
H. Collins Forman, Jr., P.A.
The book that most impacted my life is Bruchko by Bruce Olson. It’s about Bruce, a 19 year old American, his capture by the Motilone Indians, a murderous, stone age tribe in Columbia, and his adventures in Christianizing them. It’s the only book that kept me up all night to finish. It so inspired me, I became a missionary with Youth With a Mission (YWAM) in the Dominican Republic. More recently, friends and I have been traveling to the unreached, stone age tribes in the headwaters of the Amazon in Peru where we use Bruce’s wisdom as a model for reaching them. A subsequent book is The Motilone Miracle. So worth the read!
Deborah Cusick, FAU Campus Volunteer, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship
“The Tony Fontane Story” is an old dramatization of the life of teen singing idol and television personality. It chronicles his rise to stardom and his splashy Hollywood lifestyle. The film focuses on the 1957 auto accident that nearly killed him and, consequently, resulted in his conversion to Christianity and abandonment of his popular career to become a gospel singer. As a young boy this movie was the catalyst that brought me to the Lord.
Don Campion, President, Banyan Air Service, Inc.
What’s So Amazing About Grace by Philip Yancey came out in late 90’s but has continued to shape how I see the world through the eyes of grace. The alternative is to see life through the eyes of “ungrace” – a much less desirable, anti-gospel alternative. As recipients of such great Grace, we have the chance to not just believe it for ourselves, but live it out in the most difficult moments of life. Turns out this book is strikingly relevant in this cultural moment.
Doug Sauder, Pastor, Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale
The book, Broken Things by M.R.DeHaan was a life changer for me years ago. You have to break an egg, a peanut and a coconut to get to the good stuff and, at that time, I needed to be broken so I would allow the Lord to get to the “good stuff” in my life. A kernel of corn needs to be “broken” so that it might become popcorn. We’re so afraid of the breaking process but, at the same time, it can be the best thing that ever happens to us. It was for me, and today I thank the Lord for the breaking process. Jeremiah 18:1-6. Lord, have Your way.
Fidel Gomez, Pastor, Calvary Chapel Hollywood
One book that changed my Christian growth path was The Case For Christ by Lee Strobel. It came out at a time when I was still struggling with my belief about Jesus and how that whole picture came together. I believe that book is more important now than ever in the world that is turning away from Jesus and trying to question the belief that he is the only son of God and the only way to heaven! Everyone should read that book!
Dr. Fred Scarbrough, Founder, Scarbrough Animal Hospital and Hope South Florida
Vine Deloria, Jr.’s Custer Died for your Sins: An Indian Manifesto was a 220 volt shock to my mind and heart as I heard, for the first time, the voice of a Lakota scholar and activist telling the American story from an Indigenous perspective. It was a hard but necessary read that led to years of listening to the Native American experience from 1492 until today. Richard Twiss’s One Church, Many Tribes was a faith-filled follow-up that narrated “500 Years of Bad Haircuts.”
Gene L. Green, PhD, Dean, Trinity International University – Florida
My father gave me the book, Good to Great written by Jim Collins in 2004. Besides the Bible, this book has given me a template on how to build and manage a Great Company. A must read for anyone serious about achieving Excellence.
Gregg Wallick, President, Best Roofing, Inc.
One of my favorite books is Lee Strobel’s A Case for Christ. His story of complicated disbelief and a hardened heart is so prevalent today! Yet, God’s deepest love and understanding opened his heart and mind to the Truth… That’s how much God loves us. He knows our thoughts, our hurts and our desires.
Helen Wayner, P.A., Century 21 Hansen Realty
The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs had an big impact on me in my thirties. It help me dive deeper into the gospel and the expanse of the Scriptures. In addition, Andy Stanley’s Making Vision Stick has been an annual favorite. It is a practical reminder that vision leaks and it helps to keep casting.
James Welch, Pastor, First Baptist Fort Lauderdale
The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs. Almost everyone I know is presently surprised by how well the Puritans are able to diagnose our heart’s condition and apply the healing work of Christ to our modern day lives. But that has been my experience over and over again and none proved more helpful or needed than this work by Jeremiah Burroughs. I highly recommend it!
Rev. Jeff Lee, Campus Minister, FAU, Reformed University Fellowship
One of the books that has impacted me the most, other than the Bible, would be The Long War Against God, by Dr. Henry Morris. It is considered to be a classic and details how Christians compromise with evolution. In today’s world we need to understand that evolutionary thinking or mindset has undermined the Word of God. It is the worldview that diametrically opposes the Christian worldview. Evolutionism is not only the predominant worldview of those outside the church, most Christians today have unconsciously incorporated evolutionary thinking into their own worldview. Therefore, Christians ignore it or compromise with it at great peril!
Dr. Mary Drabik, President, South Florida Bible College & Theological Seminary
Two books, had an impact on my life. The first is Silent No More by Rod Parsley that I read almost 15 years go. He really clarified the struggle between the Biblical world view and the Secular Humanist world view. If anything, his concerns, which were eye opening at that time, are understated in today’s progressive/permissive climate. The second book, which I read about three years ago, is The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Man. It is a business book that puts the Golden Rule on steroids. Like most worthwhile books, the messages contained therein are timeless.
Mike McDermott, PA, Seniors Real Estate Specialist, The Keyes Company
I’m not sure if there has been a specific movie that has changed the path of my life, but there are many that have made very strong impressions. One in particular is “Gran Torino.” In it the main character, an older grumpy veteran, displays Jesus on earth by laying down his life for a young man facing certain malice and in desperate need of help. Any movie surrounding loyalty and honor, especially where the bad guys lose is a movie for me.
Dr. Mike Rozenblum, Genesis Physical Medicine and Chiropractic
I have been influenced by many good books, stories, and movies. I personally like books on leadership, interesting biographies and history. It is very difficult to pick just one. However, if I had to, I would choose the leadership book by Jim Collins called Good to Great. The leadership principles in this book are excellent.
Milan Stefanovic, Chief Operations & Personal Lines Officer, Bass Underwriters
I am an avid reader and have two books that really stand out in shaping my development as a leader. The first is Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. I have always been quite introverted and that book gave me tremendous insight and triggered genuine interest in learning about the stories of others. It turned out I was more curious than I was shy. The other is almost anything by John Maxwell. But The Five levels of Leadership provides a magical perspective on leadership. I can only continue to strive to be that level five leader and have been blessed to know and be influenced by a few!
Nancy Robin, President, Habitat for Humanity of Broward County
“Braveheart” is a movie that not only had a huge impact on me when I saw it, but continues to inspire me every time I watch it. It’s a reminder that the passion and commitment of one person can have an enormous effect. He experienced great victories as well as devastating defeats yet he never lost sight of the goal: freedom for Scotland. Indeed, even though he was ultimately hanged, drawn, and quartered for high treason, his final cry continues to ring through the ages: “And dying in your beds many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!”
Oksana Horton, Artistic Director, Torch and Trumpet Theatre Company
About 25 years ago, I Purchased and read The Little Herb Encyclopedia authored by Dr. Jack Ritchason, which became a life changer and path changer for me, because this book taught me the benefits of herbal supplements. The knowledge gained from this book has helped to improve and maintain my good health. God has used Dr. Ritchason to be a blessing to me and many others.
O’Neal Dozier, Pastor, The Worldwide Christian Center
About 30+ years ago I was introduced to a small book called A Mind for God by James Emery White. Later I was reintroduced to the book at TIU. Two sentences stand out: “It is a moment of both peril and promise; the peril is that when the public square is uniquely open to spirituality and hungry for visionary ideas, the mind of the Christian is often found empty, passive, and more reflective of the world at hand than the world to come. But the promise is that Christians can stride forward and engage the world at the point of its great need”. What great words to remember and to keep our focus on, precisely for this moment.
Patricia Colangelo, EdS, Lecturer, Professor, Trinity International University – Florida
August 27, 1997, I was on an airplane reading A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards and halfway through the book, there was one sentence where God said, “Are you willing to be a trustworthy vessel?“ I closed the book, I prayed that God would use me as a ‘trustworthy vessel’…and right then He spoke the words “Homeschool PE” (and the vision for Saints Homeschool PE was birthed!!!) From two words: ‘trustworthy vessel’…to two words: ‘Homeschool PE’ ….24 years later that book has impacted my life, and I pray the lives of many others in Jesus’ name!!!
Coach Rick Andreassen, founder and president, SAINTS International Sports Ministry and SAINTS of Florida Homeschool P.E.
My path changing book was one I read in late 1970’s. The book is titled The Helper and was written by the late Catherine Marshall, Scottish Pastor Peter Marshall’s wife. The book was written to give a full explanation of the Holy Spirit. It was a game changer for me at that time in my life when I had just finished law school and was back in Fort Lauderdale with my new bride starting life together as a third generation lawyer in the real world. Moving from a vague understanding of the Holy Trinity to a grasp of the power Jesus left all believers with when he left this earth, was exactly what I needed to grow in my faith and with the power of the Holy Spirit, do my best to live a Jesus first life.
Romney C. Rogers, Managing Partner, Rogers, Morris, Ziegler LLP
“In His Step” – both the black and white movie and the book. I was shocked that the actors could talk so much about God and Jesus in the movie. It was almost foreign to me, but really it was a delight. For the rest of my life, good or bad, I try to always ask what would Jesus do.
Ron Bramos, Senior Pastor, Victory Life Church
One of my favorite books, which I have re-read many times is To Kill a Mockingbird. I remember seeing the movie with my father when I was a child and feeling very bad for a man who was mistreated because of the color of his skin. Having grown up in a strand of Christianity that was racist, it helped me to see the value of all people who are made in the image of God. I still read it once every one or two years. It is a masterpiece and one of the rare times when a great movie is as good as a great book.
Samuel Lamerson, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Biblical Studies, Knox Theological Seminary
Beth Moore’s Breaking Free Bible study was one of the first I signed up for when we started going to Calvary. I remember praying about some fear that needed to be eradicated. Little did I know that wasn’t the only issue that would arise. This study made me realize the importance of these group/individual studies for personal growth. Letting God lead you to the right one can be life-changing. The last one I did was Fully Alive by Susie Larson. Another one that dug deep and caused major revelations. God speaks through these avenues if we are only willing to listen.
Tewannah Aman, Executive Director, Broward County Right to Life
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