This is a great story (at least I think so). Here goes:
Wednesday a week ago I was invited to speak at Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church, in South Tampa. We ate dinner, then moved into the sanctuary for the program. I was introduced, climbed into the pulpit, and looked out over the crowd.
"This is only the second time I've been in this room," I said. "The last time was maybe ten years ago, when author Philip Yancey was speaking about his book, What's So Amazing About Grace? I've got to say it's a thrill to be walking in my absolute favorite writer's footsteps this evening."
"He's going to be here for a small luncheon next week," someone yelled out. "You want to come?"
How cool was that? Yancey has been my hands-down favorite author ever since I first read Fearfully and Wonderfully Made over a decade ago. Since that time I've been consistently and profoundly affected by his writing. The Jesus I Never Knew; Soul Survivor; Disappointment With God; Reaching for the Invisible God - and several other great, insightful, reads.
Yancey's style is rooted in honest struggle and good question-asking; his background is journalism and he is one of the most intelligent contemporary Christian authors I've read. But it's an accessible intelligence and it communicates exceptionally well.
This week's speaking engagement (yesterday) was under the radar. Yancey is on vacation in Florida with his wife and is good friends with a man at the Palma Ceia church. He came as a favor; just to chat with one of the men's study groups. It ended up being a luncheon for around 75 people - no publicity. Tim Black came along with me and we were the only visitors in attendance.
Aspiring (and possibly annoying) authors probably bug people like Yancey every time they appear in public, so I spoke with his wife, Janet, instead. Then she ended up introducing us anyway, and I was able to chat, casually, with my literary hero for well over ten minutes. It turns out the next book he intends to write covers some of the same ground as my new book The Unmaking of A Part Time Christian.
I gifted Philip and Janet with copies of Get Real and In My Heart I Carry A Star. In the front of Get Real I inscribed the following. "I like my books a lot; but you are still my favorite author. God's rich blessings - DEREK MAUL."
Believe it or not, less than a month ago I was thinking about the influence Philip Yancey's writing has had on my ability to ask good questions and deal with them via my writing. I remember thinking how much I'd value the opportunity to talk with someone like him. But he lives in Colorado, is internationally acclaimed, and is protected by publicists and and a publishing house that manages his accessibility and his schedule.
Chalk one up for serendipity.
Love and Blessings - DEREK