Dad dropped off this biography of Frank Barker, Jr. , the founding pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama, because he thought Steve would enjoy it. I saw it and read it last night. Now it's on my "must-have-a-copy-of-my-own" list. I'd also love to get several copies to give to my sons.
Flight Path is written from Frank Barker's point of view. In fact, reading it is like listening to him speak. (I've only heard him once - last summer he came to our church and spoke to the adults one evening during vacation Bible school.) And it mainly covers his life from high school until he retired from Briarwood. But what a life! He was a drunken, carousing, hard-living Navy pilot (and Auburn grad - War Eagle!) when he felt like he should go to seminary to live a better life, be a good man, and appease God. He went through seminary - or at least half-way through it - and was preaching at a church in Oxford, Alabama for two years before he became a Christian! Mr. Barker recounts how God brought him around and saved him, and how he saw God's goodness and provision through out the years in his family and in the church.
He tells how amazed he was when he realized that salvation was a gift from God, not something one could earn:
"I wondered why no one had told me that salvation was a gift. Then I thought, 'Isn't it strange that Martin Luther didn't know that.' The reason I thought about Luther was that I had just read his commentary on Galatians for a course I was taking. If Luther had known that salvation is a gift, he would have brought it out in the book! I wanted to see how he had missed it, so I pulled the commentary off the shelf and reread it. To my amazement it was on every page!"
One area this knowledge affected his life was in giving:
"Now that I understood salvation was a gift, I wanted to express my gratitude for God's amazing grace; but I didn't know how. The idea occurred to me to express my gratitude by increasing the percent I tithed each year...." (Every year he and his wife upped the percentage of their tithes until he retired - at that point they were giving away 75% of their income.)
It also made him desire to tell everyone what he had learned - he was excited about it. He told his parents, who were Christians and had been praying for him for years. They smiled and told him that yes, they knew salvation was a gift from God. He asked them why they never told him that and they replied that they had, God just hadn't opened Frank's eyes until that point, and they were so thankful that He had! He called his sister and shared with her. He wrote his girlfriend, Barbara, who later married him, and told her the gospel. He told friends, acquaintances, old drinking buddies - anyone he could get to listen - about Christ.
I'm not able to give this the book the review it deserves. Words fail me. Suffice it to say, I really liked this book. It had me laughing aloud many times, and crying at other times. Mr. Barker doesn't hesitate to confess his sins and his shortcomings. Janie Buck and Mary Lou Davis have done a marvelous job of capturing Frank Barker, Jr. Now if he would read it aloud for an audiobook!