A holiday Friday is a rare treasure and the day stretched out before us like a gift yet to be unwrapped.
As we sat in wing backed chairs sipping our morning coffee, I said to Brenda, "So do you have plans for tonight?"
"No, why, do you want to do something?" she said.
"Well, I'm going to hear Philip Yancey at The Church on the Queensway--do you want to come?" I said. I had emailed our cell group earlier that week to see if anyone was interested in going, but people had Canada Day plans with family, so I was going on my own.
Brenda was up for it and soon we had added supper together to the plan for the evening.
The phone rang. It was Jamie. He had been planning to leave for Hawaii today but his trip was delayed until tomorrow and was calling to find out if I was still going because he'd like to come. So the three of us went together.
We stopped at the Pickle Barrel for a delicious meal--Maple nut encrusted salmon for me; teriyaki salmon for Brenda and steak for Jamie.
The roads were so empty due to the holiday and we got to the church half an hour early but we bumped into friends and had the luxury of time to chat; and time for Brenda to tease me about my palpable excitement which she said she could discern by my nose being crinkled. It is news to me that I have such a sign; I'm afraid my nose is beyond my control!
Jamie left the choice of seats to Brenda and me in the still almost empty auditorium and then bravely followed where we led--to the front row centre seats.
An amazingly gifted worship singer, Ray Guiste and his band of musicians and singers, began the evening.
And then, on a podium that stood out from the stage; just a few feet from where we sat stood Philip Yancey.
A small framed man, in his early sixties, he is my contemporary. He looked like a child of the 1960's, dressed in a pink shirt, cream jacket and pants and a pastel multi-coloured tie and his hair a gray halo of tight curls.
I could hardly believe that he was standing in front of me; the author of one of the books that profoundly affected my life: What’s So Amazing About Grace?. Just months before Dad died, that book helped heal some deep wounds. Reading it brought home to me how infinite is the grace of God towards each one of us, and how little grace I was holding out to Dad. God knew how much I needed help to let go of my bitterness and anger.
And now he was in Toronto to talk about his latest book, What Good is God—In Search of a Faith that Matters. We were not disappointed!
Of the account of Mary, who poured the perfume over Jesus's feet and dried it with her hair, he explained that this perfume, which cost a year's wages, was really the tool of a prostitute's trade. The letting down of her hair was a scandalous act. What Mary did was a lavish expression of devotion and gratitude but it was even more than that. She was saying to Jesus, "I'm giving it all up for you." She was trusting God completely with her future. And Philip spoke of going to speak to a group of 100 prostitutes who were leaving that life behind after coming to faith in God. He told them that God had something to say to prostitutes--that they would enter the kingdom of God before "religious" people.
Philip Yancey quoted from Dorothy Sayers' book, The Mud of the Maker: Matthew 21:31-32
New International Version (NIV)
The artist does not see life as a problem to be solved but a work to be made.Our job is to let God make something beautiful out of our lives. He said that he grew up in a legalistic, bigoted church in the southern United States. But he said that that crazy church and his crazy family sent him on the search--they made him ask the questions.
God takes dung and turns it into fertilizer; stuff that stinks, he makes it food for growth.
"What is God good for?" asked Philip Yancey and then answered :
"To those who love God, nothing "irredeemable" can happen to you. No matter who you are, nothing can separate you from the love of God." He is transformer; redeemer and recycler!
While I bought Philip Yancey's new book Jamie kept a place in the book signing line.
We met a bright spirit in the line; a young woman from Japan; her name was Misa. In Japanese that means "Go to church!" We had such a great conversation while waiting for the line to slowly lead us to Philip Yancey that by the time we got there we were exchanging contact information!
When we left the church for the parking lot, under a clear sky just beginning to be lit up by fireworks here and there, it was with a sense of God having spread a lavish feast before us. We had an evening of fun; amazing worship; an inspiring speaker and found a new friend.