Breakfast with a Movie Star

Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just. Luke 14:12-14 (KJV)

I didn’t set out to have breakfast with a movie star. It just happened.

Last summer my wife and I went to Denver to attend the International Christian Retail Show. The ICRS is the largest trade show for publishers of religious books. Bookstore owners from around the world attend these annual events. An editor at a major publishing house in Nashville and I had co-written a book on writing and publishing. We were at the meeting to introduce our new book with an autograph session at the publisher’s booth. It went well and we signed all 200 copies we had and gave them away in less than an hour.

Representatives from this company gave me another book that had just been released. Its title is “A Fall Together,” and the author is Jennifer O’Neill. I recognized her name. She is an actress who had starred in the movie, “Summer of ’42,” and co-starred in “Rio Lobo” with John Wayne. She was in Denver to autograph her book also, and had told the publisher she had to return home immediately after the signing session.

The next morning we attended a breakfast given by the publisher. As we were getting ready to sit for the meal, a lady asked if she could join us. It was Jennifer O’Neill. She had changed her plans and decided to attend the breakfast but no one else knew it. She just came in unannounced and found a seat.

She sat to my right and we had an interesting conversation. Jennifer went through all the chaos of being a Hollywood star. Then something unusual happened. She found Christ and her life changed radically. I asked her how her faith affected her career. She said, “It nearly killed it.” She explained that at that time, more than a decade ago, faith was not something people talked about in Hollywood. Producers and directors thought she had lost her mind by becoming “religious.” Acting jobs began to dry up and she found herself on the outside looking in.

O’Neill now lives in Nashville where she has a local television talk show and writes and speaks around the country. Life is different from her Hollywood days but in her case, different is better. She says she is far more satisfied and at peace now.

I met another actress at that same breakfast. Her name is Tracy and she is on a soap opera—“The Bold and Beautiful,” I think. She, too, talked about her faith and her family. She seemed to be a perfectly normal pleasant young lady who loves God, talks about her family, and happens to have an unusual job.

In reflecting on that meeting, I remember what the apostle Paul told the church in Rome: “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (Romans 15:7). That is a great phrase—“accept one another.” I realized long ago that all people are the same. We all have the same needs and same problems. Some are glamorous movie and television stars. Others are like another lady who also sat at our table in Denver. She works in the warehouse for the publisher giving the meal. But there we all were—a warehouse worker, a pastor and teacher from a small Florida town, and a movie star.

That experience helps me understand the great power of the gospel to bring people together because the cause that unites us is greater than the problems that divide us. I don’t know if I’ll ever see any of my breakfast companions again, at least not in this life. But I do know that someday we’ll all gather around a great banquet table in God’s presence and feast. Would you join us there, too? You can by giving your life to Christ and letting him change your destiny. We’ll save you a place.

Father, for the grace that invites us to your table we are eternally grateful. Let us live lives of handing out invitations. Through Christ, Amen.