The tickets were expensive enough that I probably wouldn’t have gone except that my brother-in-law said I really need to: Philip Yancey’s your favourite author–you have to go!
I’m so glad he urged me. I’ve read eleven of Yancey’s books, some of them several times. I read his books because of his honesty, the way he grapples with hard questions, and the way he uses words. His sentences carry a rhythm, a cadence, that takes you along with his thought processes.
His Polish publisher organized the day, and we convened in a small, quaint hotel’s conference room on the 2nd floor. From my seat I looked out the window and saw the pastel row houses of Old Town, Warsaw. There were maybe 100 people there, which made the sessions feel relaxed and personal.
We were together the whole day. Philip had four sessions where he talked mostly about the subjects he writes about: faith, prayer, grace, and God’s ways of creation and redemption. The last hour was a Q&A session.
Uncharacteristically, I hadn’t let myself hope for much. I didn’t want to go to be in awe of him, because I dislike raving fans of anyone. It’s not fair to be agog at someone. I do respect him hugely, but I didn’t know if he would be as engaging as his books are. And I knew it was unfair to take for granted that I knew him as a person. When you read someone’s words, it’s only part of the whole person, and you can’t expect to know them just from that.
As Philip spoke to the group, I got the feeling that this is a common man who thinks uncommon thoughts, and I wished that I could know him casually, like be able to go to his house with my friends to have coffee with him and his wife. Later, I had a chance to talk with him, and it was most pleasant. He was gracious and interested in whoever was in front of him. I felt like we spoke the same language, and that it transcended our words.
Later I found his website, and read this: “Unlike many websites, this one emphasizes words and de-emphasizes graphics. I am, after all, a writer.” Ah! Someone else who blogs because of words and not photos! It made me happy that I not only met a writing hero, but also came away feeling that we understand each other.
As for recommendations, read his Disappointment with God, as well as Soul Survivor (it’s his favourite, he said), all the ones co-authored with Dr. Paul Brand, and his latest: What Good is God? which is a collection of his speeches and the context behind them. I hope that when you read him, you’ll feel understood too.