Cool things happen sometimes.
About three years ago I came upon a book called Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron. It's the story of a young Evangelical Christian pastor who has a breakdown of sorts. He deals with the breakdown by going to Italy and retracing the steps of St. Francis of Assisi. He becomes a student of the beloved saint and also of practices and rubrics of the Christian faith that go back thousands of years.
To say I loved the book doesn't even begin to describe my feelings. It resonated with me because it confirmed feelings and concerns that had been welling up inside of me, particularly feelings that my view of God and His universe was too small.
About ten years ago -- a number of years before I came upon this book -- I was beginning to feel that I knew a lot about God, but didn't know Him as well as I would like. I began to ask Him how I might know Him better. I soon found myself serving lunch at a downtown homeless shelter. The Gospels are full of stories of Jesus serving the downtrodden and marginalized. He said that when you're serving people like this, you're serving Him.
As I have previously written here, I went on to be on the Board of Directors of the organization where I started serving lunch and am now in a leadership position there. I see Jesus there all the time and I feel that I know Him better (although I still have a long way to go).
As I have gotten to know Him better, I have developed the strong feeling that He and His kingdom are much more vast than I ever imagined.
The main character in Chasing Francis, whose name is Chase, had a similar experience when he went to Italy and began mirroring some of the practices of St. Francis, who was all about serving "the least of these." Chase had been pastoring a "successful" church for many years, but when he went to Italy on this pilgrimage, his life changed in an unalterable way.
I really don't do the book justice here. Not only is it a riveting story; it is also beautifully written. I cannot recommend it enough, for Christian and non-Christian alike.
Since reading the book the first time (I have since re-read it twice and have read parts of it over and over)I have bought at least a dozen copies to give to friends and have recommended it to countless others. Also, as I have often done with books I love, I did a little research on its author.
I learned at the time that Ian Morgan Cron was the pastor of Trinity Church in Greenwich, Connecticut and is an ordained Anglican priest (although Trinity Church is actually non-denominational).
A couple of months ago, after re-reading a part of the book again, I went online to see if there was any new information on the author. I found he had a new website: www.iancron.com/. Also, much to my surprise, I learned that he had recently moved to the Nashville area!
On a whim a few weeks ago, I sent him an e-mail and told him how much I had enjoyed his book and how it had affected me. I also told him I'd love to meet him sometime. I soon received a response, in which he suggested that we meet for coffee. He even gave me a suggested date and time. I responded that I would be there! (I don't drink coffee but, hey, I'm not splitting hairs over that one).
So last week I had the privilege of meeting the author of one of my favorite books of the past several years. He was as interesting and entertaining as I thought he would be. For an hour and a half he graciously allowed me to bombard him with questions and he shared with me how he came to write Chasing Francis. Like me, he is a voracious reader, and gave me a number of new recommendations, including one that he proposed that I read, then discuss with him over lunch.
He is no longer pastoring a church. He is writing and speaking and is in the process of writing another book which is due to be published next spring. He is represented by an agency and publisher here in Nashville.
The older I get, the more I appreciate the written word, especially when it is written as beautifully as it is in Chasing Francis and evokes thought in me the way it has.
To get to meet the writer of those words? Well, it's just way, way cool.