The photo above is the book that I am going to start reading tonight. I wouldn’t normally post about a book that I hadn’t even started reading yet, but this book is special. You see thanks to my absolutely amazing wife I received it as a gift from the author himself in the year 2000. That Fall Pam and I went to London for a week as an anniversary trip. It was a fantastic trip mainly because Pam is a very creative vacation planner (which is why the boys and I jokingly call her “Julie the cruise director”). Part of the plan that she established was a surprise visit to Oxford and an appointment to visit Dr. Alister McGrath.
I have a few tiers of favorite authors. 1st tier – Holy Spirit (since the Bible is the single book that I have read the most cover to cover it is a good thing that I like it), 2nd tier – C.S. Lewis , 3rd tier – a group of other authors who I love and read and read regularly, 4th tier – authors that I like but a little less than the 3rd tier, etc., etc. If there was a hierarchy of the 3rd tier Dr. McGrath would be at the top. That is why Pam setup the appointment with him. Yep that is right, Pam arranged for me to meet with one of my heroes in his personal study. Of course, I wasn`t at my best (physically or mentally) when I met him. It began with me stinking.
The airline lost our luggage on the way to England. This shouldn`t have been a problem because we weren’t going to Oxford for a few days and the airline kept assuring us that they would have our luggage to us at any moment. Their assurances didn`t mean much. On the fourth day, when we were heading to Oxford, Pam and I had been rotating the clothes we had in our carry on for two days and washing certain garments in the sink at night. I was reduced to wearing the sandals that I wore on the plane. Since it was cold I added socks to the sandals. Just in case, you don’t know this, socks and sandals are not a good look, I didn’t care because it was really cold. Yep I was going to meet Dr. McGrath wearing sandals and socks. And then I wasn`t.
We took the Oxford Tube to Oxford. We would get to Oxford around an hour and a half before the appointment with Dr. McGrath. That was until the bus broke down. No big deal the Oxytube has buses leaving every twenty minutes, or so, for Oxford. We were told another bus would come by soon and we would board it and make it to Oxford with time to spare. “Soon” apparently meant over two hours. Turns out we were going to be 2 hours late for the appointment. We called and asked if we could reschedule our appointment. Unfortunately Dr. McGrath was a busy man and it wouldn’t be possible. Well, it was worth a try.
We arrived at Oxford and started to walk around the community and colleges. That is when it began to rain. Since our luggage was lost we were unprepared for the rain. We bought an umbrella to share and continued to walk through Oxford. Unfortunately we soon discovered that the umbrella didn’t completely cover us. That was when the right side of my body began to get wet.
Around lunch Pam and I thought “I wonder if Dr. McGrath would just sign my copy of his Systematic Theology?” So we went to Dr. McGrath’s office and began to explain the whole story to his secretary. We talked about losing our luggage, we talked about washing our clothes in the sink, we talked about the bus breaking down, and we ended with the rain. I thought she was going to cry and she decided right then and there that we had gone through too much and that Dr. McGrath would gladly meet with us during his office lunch.
That is when I began to back peddle REAL FAST. I suddenly realized that I would be in the room with a world class mind and I might have to talk to him. I am not a world class mind and therefore the thought of having to say something to him intimidated the heck out of me. Especially when I was wet, tired, and had been wearing the same clothe for multiple days. What if I said something stupid, like telling Dr. McGrath that he was my SECOND favorite author (which I actually did say to him). Nope, I would be more than satisfied with Dr. McGrath’s autograph and at most a handshake. She insisted and we were soon ushered into D. McGrath’s study. I was shaking in my shoes and acted on the only plan I could think of. I would ask dr. McGrath long winded questions that would keep him talking and keep me from having to say anything. My plan worked perfectly.
Thankfully Dr. McGrath was very generous and the whole experience turned out great. Before we left Dr. McGrath reached over, grabbed a book, signed it, an handed it to me. He told me this book wasn’t out yet but was his newest. I was thrilled.
If you can’t tell, I married a pretty amazing woman.