Can you tell me about the book The Ultimate Gift?

The Ultimate Gift is about when one of the richest men in the world is coming to the end of his life and instead of making all of his relatives instant millionaires forever, he has a grandson he sees some potential in and instead of giving him money, sends him on a twelve month odyssey which he has to learn the gift of money, friends, and family. In the end if he can accomplish all of these things, then he will receive the ultimate gift.

What inspired this story?

I had written five books or so before this and they were all non-fiction. I had written everything I knew and everything I kind of suspected, so it was time to come up with some fiction. I liked the way the story wrapped around the messages I wanted to deliver.

I had a co-worker diagnosed with terminal cancer and she made me the guardian of her 11 year old child. And in that process gave me a lot of instruction: make sure she knows about dating, driving, and going to college and those sorts of things. So that whole concept of somebody passing something on at a time when they knew they weren’t going to be there I think is where some of that came from.

Do you see this journey that Jason is on as an allegory for discipleship?

I think it can be. The whole concept of us passing on things that matter, both practical, spiritual, financial, all these things that make a difference. How we manage our money, how we manage our life is a reflection of our faith. I don’t think you can separate those out. Too many people try to compartmentalize their faith. “I’m doing good in my faith area, but I’m doing bad in my family area.” I don’t think you can do that.

Can you tell me a bit about your own spiritual journey?

I grew up in a Christian home. My father has worked for Oral Roberts for over 50 years now, still working. I grew up in that environment. We were in church every week. I would say, as I look back on it now, that I was a very religious person. I did it because that was what we did. And then at age 17 I was diagnosed with a disease that would result in my blindness and you immediately go from religion to relationship. That faith has to go from a theory that you take down and polish off on Sunday mornings to something real that you can live with.

How involved were you with the movie? Did it turn out as you imagined/hoped?

There has probably not been an author who has had as much involvement as I did. I had script approval, I worked with them on casting, and I actually played a small part in the film. That was fun. So all and all, I was very pleased.

Obviously when you turn a book into a movie you have to make changes. Leave things out, add an element of danger, we had to give Jason a girlfriend … some things like that. But by and large, I was totally pleased with the final product.

Can you tell me about the broader ministry you see this movie being a part of?

We do a lot of work in public schools, we do a lot of work in prisons. The Ultimate Gift is taught as a curriculum now and we’re able to go into a lot of places. It has become almost like a movement.

What’s the one thing you’d like people to take away from this movie?

That our life has been given to us as a gift and there are things we’re here to do. And we’re supposed to do them otherwise we’d all just be in heaven now. So it’s been given to us as a gift and how we deal with it on a daily basis is our tribute to the gift we’ve been given.

Do you think you’re passing along the gift of story?

Well, I hope so. You know whether you are talking about the Bible or not, when you tell a good story, you’ve earned the right to speak into people’s lives. I could talk to you for an hour and a half about a certain message or I could just say it’s like the good Samaritan and you’d know what I was talking about. We all have those connections with a great story. So hopefully it will live and the message will come through that way.

What are you up to now?

The sequel to The Ultimate Gift comes out next month. It’s called The Ultimate Life and it follows what happens to Jason right after the movie. So we continue on into his life.

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