the wild love

growing wings

Category: theology

i bind unto myself

There is a feeling, deep in the pit of my stomach, when I sing. It’s not there when I sing just anything, though. I can belt out “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” at a Cabaret night in high school or sing along with Jack Johnson that senior year beginning in the fall with the lazy sunset and the cabin where the seniors got to spend the last night, without it. It isn’t just the love of opening my mouth and hearing my vocal chords spill over into the air, into the room, into your hearing.

It only happens when I sing hymns.

I used to think them too old, but I didn’t grow up in the youth groups and the guitar lessons, the right chords to Hillsong and Chris Tomlin. A friend who went to a congregational church did, filled with stories of the ski trips and missions trips and summer bible studies, filled with games and the healthy junk food and the praise songs, that got you up off your chair and swaying, as you closed your eyes and, it seemed, something wondrous happened.

I was an Episcopalian becoming Anglican, thinking about Orthodoxy and Catholicism, and I didn’t know those songs, only the old hymns, the 1982 blue hymnal hymns, the tunes we would plunk out on the piano or I would offer to sing into the few standing microphones we had at the church. I wanted to sing with some kind of lark angelic sound. I wanted to bring others near to God with my singing, make something happen in the seats, in the church, out in the world. But I didn’t think hymns could do that.

But St. Patrick had a hymn – we call it St. Patrick’s Breastplate – the hymn of “I Bind Unto Myself Today”. It has seven verses and verse six has a completely different melody than the others, and verse one is short -

I sang it first tripping over the words and syllables in a small church in New England where the altar was hidden far back and the priest climbed stairs to the pulpit to preach, and then again in St. John’s Hall, where the praise band played it with guitars and a drum set as we set a kitchen table groaning with altar cloth and frontal piece and those gifts, through and by the Spirit the Body and the Blood, where we made the space alive with our voices and cupped hands. I sang it unsure then -

and then again, and again, I have watched that hymn follow me across state lines and countries, through empty fields where I only remembered one half of one verse in England or along highways and -

you see, when I sing it, the words coming and going like water, when I sing it, close my eyes in church or stand in the shower or just hum bits of it to myself in the car, I realize -

the hymn binds me to Christ.

This song is an act of prayer, this song is an act of worship, this song, this hymn, with all its mystery, the cadence of its sounds, this binds me to Christ.

I bind unto myself today, the strong name of the Trinity, by invocation of the same, the Three in One and One in Three. 

The feeling in the pit of my stomach is less about my singing, more about my spirit.

I bind unto myself, today.


advent 3 (the glorious music)

My brother and I love the Messiah. We sang the Hallelujah Chorus in high school together, our voices beaming out those waves of joy, our faces alive in the light that shines in the midst of the darkness of winter. Later, in February or March, when the snow was melting, I’d find myself humming it as I went along the winding roads towards school. There was something in the music, I said.

So a few years ago, when I realized that the music was beloved by many more than just me and my brother, I bought us tickets. We dressed up, took a train in the freezing cold to Symphony Hall. It was a 3pm performance, that first time, I think, and the first Sunday in Advent. Our seats were student rush seats, nothing special, but somehow the feeling that we were grown ups, going into the city to see something, walking up the cool steps with ladies in fur coats and men in tweed jackets with elbow patches, meant something. We were learning to be us, we were learning to love the us that we were.

And then the music began, and over and over again the words and sounds crashed around our ears, Comfort, comfort ye my people, saith your God. The tenor that first year was beaming, I remember, and though his body was calm, it was as if his voice left his body, to come to each of us, tapping us on the shoulder. Did you hear me? It whispered. I am singing to you, thus saith your God. I have loved choral music ever since I sang Rudolph and Holly Jolly Christmas in my elementary school gym/cafeteria/auditorium/multi-purpose room. I have loved to sing. But then, in that first Sunday, when the waiting had just begun? Then I loved music for the first time.

We went back this year. A new night, a new concert hall, a new choir, a new tenor opening God’s words to us and proclaiming the comfort of God’s people, the coming of the Messiah. A new feeling, sitting in what I think was the same outfit I had worn two years ago, leaning forward in my seat for two hours while I cling to each word like the manna God once sent to the unruly people Israel.

And I heard, again and again, not just that we are comforted, but that line from the Hallelujah chorus I sang all those years ago -

the kingdom of this world, is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ, and of his Christ.

I have been unruly this Advent, anxious for God’s coming but perhaps not for what it will bring to me. Anxious to celebrate, but not to prepare. I have been hungry for the good news but when it begins, as it must begin, in the reminder that we are a people hindered by our sins, in the knowledge of how we have wronged each other and this world, how we have gone astray, how we have fallen apart from God – then I do not want to know the good news. Then I do not want to face the manger, the angels in that field, the Christ child.

But the kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ. And of his Christ.

And he shall reign.

However unruly our hearts, however we fear the goodness of the news, the light it shines on us – can there be better music than this? That he shall reign forever and ever.


when I crawl back into the word

“What do I possibly have to say about that.” – my response to a thoughtful prompt by my ever-thoughtful fiance when I complained I had nothing to write about.

He is too patient with me to say anything to my complaining, to the whine he must hear in my voice through the typed messages. He reminds me that I could write nothing. But how do I explain that I want to be writing, that my heart is restless and I must do something, put something on paper to feel again the way that I feel most alive, that after being quiet here I want to be loud, even if just for a moment? That I want to have something to say.

Maybe that’s what we all want, scattered in our various lives. We want to have something to say – to the post office lady or the checker in the long grocery store line, to the question over coffee and the quizzical look in passing the peace in church. If I say nothing, how do I know I still have a voice? If I say nothing, am I still here?

So I open this blank screen and I start to type and it sounds furious because a part of me is furious, furious that words are what the are, furious that you cannot control them and sometimes you have nothing to say and furious even more because the voice that I haven’t been listening to is telling me, “You haven’t been listening.”

I already know it. I haven’t  been. I haven’t found God in prayer and I haven’t sought God in church and I haven’t gone into God’s word like the woman I am, the one who was at the well, her thirst wrapping around her like a veil.

Because wasn’t it the Word that was water to her soul? And didn’t he say to us, meditate on this day and night?

So when she prays in her email that the word would be bound to my forehead and around my wrists,

when he is patient with my raging about how little I have to say,

when the only thing I hear in church is that I have not been in Word, and Hilary? That’s why you feel apart from me,

then, I crawl back into it.

I open Isaiah and read, slow, deliberate, and the words are loud with God’s wild anger and desolation over the beloved chosen people, who have all gone astray, and how there is nothing anymore that gives honor and glory, and Isaiah asks, at the very end, “How long, O Lord?”

I crawl closer.

I want to hear God’s answer.


unless you bless me

I will not let you go unless you bless me.

How long did those hours stretch, Jacob to a stranger’s flesh, clinging tighter as his muscles weakened, felt the strain of his back and hands and arms and still he held onto the belief that he would not let go, unless.

Unless you bless me.

Once in an Orthodox Church I was told the story of how Mary entered the temple as a child, how she ran to the Holy of Holies without any fear, how it seemed to recognize and welcome her, who would become the bearer of Christ to the world. I stood beneath the playtetera, the icon of Mary stretched in prayer. I imagine her like Jacob, muscles flexed and strained under the weight of such open hands, such reaching and presenting of Jesus to the world. I imagine her muscles ached with faithfulness, with that clinging of behold all nations shall call me blessed.

I used to promise God I’d stop asking to be blessed because I thought prayer was an ever-interceding for another. I told God my prayers were too selfish as they were, too centered on me, on a desperate desire to be better known and better know, my small muscles clinging beneath white dresses or ripped jeans or running shorts, anxious for a blessing. But I imagined prayer like a laundry list I had to keep track of, each tick of another person’s name off my tongue a checkmark, a satisfactory nod from the One who cannot be named – so I kept away from asking to be blessed. I kept away from asking for guidance, except my muscles returned again and again to Jacob’s posture, then to Mary’s, always aching with the desire to be closer.

I told God it wasn’t right, that prayer was about others, not ourselves, that it was pious of me to put my knees to the floor and name the gifts given, pray for the family and the house and the friendships and the broken bits and pieces of other stories. I thought myself good at praying in those days, when words tripped off my tongue, eloquent and sweet.

And then last week on Sunday I read the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel, alone in the night, and how Jacob held on, though his hip was out of joint, and how he said, I will not let you go unless you bless me.

And as I stood there, my voice joined in that mysterious way to Jacob’s, my hands found their way to stretch open like Mary’s -

we can wrestle, pray wide into the spaces in our own hearts for a deeper knowing, for muscles that ache with faithfulness, for hands that open towards heaven.

And not let go.


would I catch flame (a synchroblog with addie zierman)

It wasn’t that long ago that I came to college with my bags packed and my mind full of theology I didn’t understand. I’d grown up in old rhythms: liturgy on Sundays and Eucharist like manna, a provision from heaven I didn’t know how to need. I grew up so desperately hungry for understanding of God that I read more than I could stomach: Catholic books and Eastern Orthodox theology, books with complicated titles. I talked big about ideas with all the confidence of a teenager who learned the word “eschatological” three days ago and wants to use it, wants to fill the world over with what she thinks she knows about God.

I grew up Christian but thought I could grow up as the next C.S. Lewis, write the apology for my generation, tell the world why it was logical and reasonable and rational and right to be what I was. I grew up Christian, learned the habits of prayer and the way that the seasons change in the church – preparation to celebration to growing to Pentecost and again and again how I tried to understand too much about too much, cram heaven into my head while I still didn’t know how to French braid my hair.

That summer of going to college I thought I’d figured out what it meant to be Christian, to live out a life of faithfulness: it meant knowing the answers and complicating them, tracing the shapes of ideas into journals and class discussions and making my heart so safe in the right theology that it might never need to wonder about the presence of the love of God.

I drove up to the dorm and I unloaded my laundry basket of things – a few picture frames, books, notebooks and pens in neat piles, and waited.

I waited that whole year to feel right. I waited to hear God the way the people around me kept hearing Him, the way they closed their eyes in worship and put their hands above their heads to the songs by the bands I didn’t know existed (but I could sing a hymn, and I was proud of that, thinking I’d escape God into the warm and safe arms of the old ornate words and the incense and the icons). I waited for the moments where I would finally understand what falling in love with God felt like, finally make myself read my Bible and have quiet time in the mornings the way, it turned out, youth group taught you. And I hadn’t gone to youth group and I hadn’t played the Chris Tomlin CDs and maybe I hadn’t done much falling in love with God, I thought, as I walked to and from class trying to fit my theology around the worry that I might never catch fire.

But the fire of Pentecost can descend at a moment, like ice, like clear water, like dust that spins you and settles you and unsettles you again. Like Eucharist manna – the provision of mystery, in mystery.

I was in a parking lot, on a Sunday morning, tears tracing the indents my dimples make in my face whenever I move.

Then I was in a still Chapel late at night, the kind of stillness that bends towards a heavenly silence.

Then I was in a blue TV room in Washington DC learning that the very word Jesus was power.

Then, and again and again now – I take what is unto me the very Body and Blood, the mystery provision, and I fall in love with God who teaches my heart how to make room for Him, not the words about Him.

And the fire is small and flickers daily. And the Spirit descends. And I catch flame.


I’m linking up with Addie’s synchroblog to celebrate her book release of When We Were on Fire. I can’t wait to read it (because her words are good words, food-to-the-soul words).synchroblog-photohome_uk

a midwife in heaven

She will go before Shakespeare.

She will go before Shakespeare in the wild parade of the blessed, after the striving, after the yearning ache or the clambering up mountains to see something (was it just ourselves we wanted to see, after all?).

She will come forward, who labored two new beings into the world – the mother, the child – kneeling on a cold bedroom floor in countless houses in the town, kneeling to watch that which God made, new and new again.

She will be known among the crowds of the heavenly, and Shakespeare, laughing, will sweep his words aside to make room to praise her.

Because this is the kingdom of God, where love is too wild to be measured, where the parade is laughing and ever laughing, at the knots we tangled ourselves in thinking if only we had the recognition or the security of it, the words embossed in prizes or publications, the fame, the knowing.

But this is the Kingdom of the anonymous faithful named for all that was glorious in their calling, where the hierarchies are scattered in our abundance of eagerness, where we leave behind how we have named one another – famous or critically acclaimed or somehow not quite enough yet (oh, how often have I named myself that?) -

where we leave it behind because the Kingdom is coming, and our joy sees its fullness, and so we abandon decorum and procession and we run, children again, to the throne.

This is the Kingdom where a midwife marches in step with a poet, where the bankers and bakers and those who mothered and fathered six children walk through the streets, unknown by accomplishment but known by calling.

And some days I sit in a train car with a man whose calling I can hear sounding in me as fierce as my own heartbeat, and I write these words on the back of a receipt from a coffee shop where I met someone two months ago and told us both what I want to write here, what I want to shout to everyone: in the Kingdom of God there is too much joy and too much wonder and too much life abundant that our ladders will be unraveled by the power of the river of living water.

I write that the midwife will go before Shakespeare, and laughing, they will praise each other. She will whisper how she saw Twelfth Night once, and he will whisper that he ought to have written ten sonnets in praise of her hands.

I sit in a train car in a green dress in summer, remembering how my friend, she first told me this truth: that a midwife will go before Shakespeare, that in a Kingdom where last is first, our measurements fall to pieces, and this will be joy to us.

Thy Kingdom come.


I pray with the animals

I’m at a loss for the words this early in the morning, sitting as I am at the gate waiting for a plane to bring me home and away. Those lines have blurred, God, I think half-heartedly, and I am impatient for the days when it is no longer the slow waltz of leaving and arriving, the dance outside terminals and in airport parking lots and along the back roads of Newburyport and The Woodlands. I am impatient for the hands clasped, for the dishes drying in my hands and the soft hum as we waltz through the night laced in each other’s arms. Impatient, I grip the pen tighter, ask for the right words, ask for the prayer. 

But I don’t know how to put this in words flung up to God this morning as August begins, and my words flee from me the moment I lower my eyelids in the ordinary, obedient way. The fear of leaving, the joy of arriving, they crowd in and I hesitate.

I remember that I brought the book with me at just this moment – a ghost of a whisper to remember that Carmen Bernos de Gasztold offered prayers, those of the lark and the bee and the old, tired camel. I crack the spine slightly in my haste, smooth the pages with my fingertips. The flight attendants call those who need to board with small children - but aren’t I just such a child? - and I read. 

The Prayer of the Foal

O God! the grass is so young!
My hooves are full of capers.
why does this terror start up in me?
I race
and my mane catches the wind.
I race
and Your scents beat on my heart.
I race,
falling over my own feet in my joy,
because my eyes are too big
and I am their prisoner:
eyes too quick to seize
on the uneasiness that runs through the whole world.
Dear God,
when the strange night
prowls round the edge of day,
let Yourself be moved by my plaintive whinny;
set a star to watch over me
and hush my fear.


I was only seven or eight when I first wanted a horse. My grandfather in England gave me The Very Best Book of Horses and I read it so much my fingers smudged the ink of the headings, wore the pictures to almost nothing with my fingers tracing the outline of the girls in their riding outfits and English saddles. I met a pony once in a field in England, an old white one with grey spots scattered on her body, more from age than a dappled beginning. I fed her sweet grass slowly from the palm of my hand, and just once, Dad let me touch her nose. I startled as I felt her breathe, my hand calmed by her slowness, my heart hushed by her deep eyes.

When I was trying to explain my fear to her in the dark of the upstairs in the student center, on the chairs we always sat in when it was that kind of conversation, I told her I was like a horse. Steady and skittish, born at once with gravity and with wild movement. I was afraid, and eager. I felt God ripple through my heart like the zephyrs in late spring here, which trace the edge of the water, but I was scared, running for the hills, afraid of such closeness. I was always eager and afraid.

And then, that winter night I wandered through the bookcases in the attic, searching for the old story, for “If it’s a colt you want, I’ll give you Starlight” - for Almanzo and Eliza Jane and Royal, for the Christmas and the schoolyard and the year that Dad first read me the story out loud. I found our hardcopy sitting in between other old and musty books, remembering how I, like Almanzo, had always wanted a colt, how I had wanted a farm like his and to build a sled and train two cows, Star and Bright, and plow my way through waist-deep snow into school. I remember being lost in the story, in the somehow realness of it, just because I knew how much Almanzo had wanted a horse, for I wanted one too.

I read the prayer on the plane again and again, closing my eyes only to open them again. I remember how God cherishes the creation of the animals, how He teaches us to love them in Adam’s naming. I remember how it is good to imagine the conversations they must have with God, for this whole earth is bursting with songs back to the Creator. Right before we land, I write:

Dear Lord, may I ever remember how Your creatures, wild and tamed, young and old, yield their life as praise of their being, of Your creating. May I give the same praise lark-like and with the canter of the horse, for all that You give. For Yours is the world. And Yours the glory. Amen. 


the words of living water

My knees  knock together when I step out of the pew and walk forward. I’ve read in church before, but I clutch the printout tightly, creasing it in my hands before I bow at the altar, in the way I’ve been trying to show the youngest among us, - we bow because this is a holy place - and I step up to the lectern.

“A reading from the Book of Genesis, chapter 18.” This is the story of Abraham, who dares to stand before the Lord Almighty, who speaks - Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just? - and whom God answers - if I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake. This is the story of Abraham, who dares again and again to stand and draw near, and whom God answers, again and again revealing His justice, so wildly compassionate – that even for the sake of forty-five, of forty, thirty, twenty, ten, He will not destroy it. 

It is Fr. Patrick’s ordination to the priesthood in Boston – I’m not quite a teenager, I think, but he has asked me to read the Old Testament lesson, to speak it out into the crowds gathered in clean whites and blues. I’m scared to move in the space, because the holiness of the incense and the quiet as we wait for the processional is too much for my still-young heart. I’m scared to read, scared to hear my voice carrying out His message. I’m not quite a teenager, but I know I’m not a vessel worthy of this Word.

“A reading from the prophet Isaiah, chapter 6.” I take deep breaths, and I close my eyes. Dad taught me to speak in church, slow, looking out over the lectern into the faces of those who receive these words, because these are the people hungry for the Word. This is the vision where the seraphim call to one another - holy, holy, holy is the Lord  of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory!  - and as I peer out, my hands white at the knuckles against the sides of the carefully carved lectern, I see that I am not alone in the rapture of this moment, not alone, after all, because we all together must be whispering what I say next - I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!

And then, just as I realize that I am not alone - Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said, Behold,  this has touched your lips, your guilt is taken away, and your sin is atoned for.” I tell out that promise to the crowds of faces, these words that we too, who are a people of unclean lips, we too can be touched.

I wear the dress on purpose in case he’d be there – one shoulder, black, and I wear the leopard printed flats that I always think make my feet look smaller, more delicate. I straightened my hair and circled eyeshadow across my eyelids in my parent’s mirror.  I’m reading the Fourth Lesson tonight, and I pray suddenly, in my pew, that somehow, the words will sound new to me, too.

“The peace that Christ will bring is foreshown.” I close my eyes. When I open them again, I hear a voice, which must be mine, but it’s stronger and it’s richer and it is saying words of living water. There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him. the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. 

I forget the boy I dressed for, though I see him in the back of the church, though our eyes pass each other, because when I hear that voice, which must be mine, reading these, the better words of living water, I am returned back into the mystery of these words who bear to us the Word, this mystery that by our sounding out the words to each other -

we meet the Lord, the King, the Judge of all the Earth who does what is just, the shoot from the stump of Jesse whose delight is in the fear of the Lord.

I still knock my knees together every time I walk up the aisle to read. I still feel the twelve year old worried that everyone will see that I am still too young to stand before the congregation. I still take deep breaths to steady myself -

and ever, always, I drink the living water of the Word.


the greater work, a letter to preston

Do y’all remember when Preston and I were writing all those letters last year, Tuesdays and Thursdays, writing out this ramble through faith and life and coffee late at night and Gossip Girland all the rest? And how, those letters, they were the beginning of something wondrous? We are beginning again, new and the same, our selves familiar and not. You can read his last letter to me here

Dear Preston,

She asked me while the rest of the congregation was singing the third verse of the hymn, which I can’t remember in this moment, why I was so nice. She smiled up at me as she said it, flung her arms around my neck and hugged me as if she might never see me again. Her hair was in two braids, which she proudly swung from side to side to show me – “do you like my braids? Mommy did them!” And I held her close, feeling the small weight that is somehow cosmic, that in this small person there are more wonders than in all the world, because she is fearfully made, because she is. That wonder of being – that you talk about in your letter, that simple and terrifying complicated wonder of being. She is, and as I hold her, and she says, in her outdoor voice, “I love you so much!” I close my eyes.

But before I really pray, before I really get to the moment of something deep and beautiful whispered over her, before any of that, she crawls off my lap and runs back to her pew, flings her arms around her brother and waves to me, before they both take each other’s hands and go to Sunday School.

I think that’s the way of the world, Preston, the way that I have trouble with – that what we cherish we must somehow release.

I got to hold her for a few minutes, but as she wriggled free and tumbled off my lap and ran back to her family, her lavender dress billowing from the fan and the wind that always moves through the sanctuary, I remembered that the act of holding is, must be, an act of release.

I want to hold onto her forever. I want to hold onto people and places, hold the whole wide world in my hands (I played that for you on the backroads, your hand in mine). I used to think that was the great work: to hold fast, to hold people secure in your heart and your arms and your thoughts about them. I used to think it was the great work to stay close with your arms encircled and your eyes closed, praying over the little girl while she nestled against you.

But the truth is the greater work is to hold one another, hold this world that we want, as you say, through the threaded grace of wanting it because of God, who is the first mover and the first lover of the world – hold all that, and then release it.

And I think about the Cross, how those arms outstretched are at the same moment holding us close to the heart of a God who is too terrifying to be understood, and releasing us into the water that flows from the right side of the temple, releasing us into the life that He came to give fully, releasing us from the embrace of the world into the embrace of God. Offering and release. They’re connected, I think.

If we close our selves, even around the things we love most, arms encircled around the little girl and her braids or around the best friend or around even the moments of walking through fields of shocking red and purple in Southern France -

if we hold them too closely, we cannot make the gesture of offering. Our bodies which mirror our hearts cannot do the greater work: the work of loving so fiercely and so wildly that we do, in fact, release our hold on that which we love - 

if we hold them too closely, we lose the moment to see them as gift, to offer back praise to the Giver - 

if we hold them too closely, we miss the greater work of love. 

Love, always, 


praise is calling, a letter to preston

Do y’all remember when Preston and I were writing all those letters last year, Tuesdays and Thursdays, writing out this ramble through faith and life and coffee late at night and Gossip Girl and all the rest? And how, those letters, they were the beginning of something wondrous? We are beginning again, new and the same, our selves familiar and not. This is the first of the new letters – but you can read Preston’s last one, from last October, here. (And just so you know, he is unlike anyone I have met before. In all those amazing ways that words fail to capture. I’m amazed and awed and all the rest by him)

Dear Preston,

“You know what I think? I think maybe I’m finding it. You know, the THING.” I cradle the phone lovingly, just the way I used to when she and I would talk the miles between New York and Massachusetts in our college years. I remember how we didn’t know who we even might want to begin to be, how then, everything was new and she taught me to joy in that, rather than to fear. I remember how the not knowing used to send me running for some comfort somewhere, for books or academic sounding research projects, but she said I had a calling different than that – something about writing, about telling stories.

“I think I’m finding it.”

Do you remember me telling you about this conversation? Did I tell you about it? Sometimes, I think you and I have talked about everything, but I’m back to wondering if I can put words to what is going on in my heart and mind. I’m thinking about this again, this morning, in the long stretch of the day and the longer stretch of the summer, thinking about calling, thinking about what I’m hungry for.

We use the word vocation all the time. Is it because we almost never know the real word? What do you call it – the hunger that somehow feeds you? What do you call it – the thing you must do, as dear Rilke would say, the thing that calls forth from inside you and outside you and that will not relent? What do you call it – the way of being?

What I’m after, anyway, is a way of being. What I am longing for, anyway, is to wander without being lost, to ramble with a pattern, to… something. I can’t quite figure out what.

The words trip their way out of my mouth, always a little ahead of my thoughts – “I’m called to praise.”

But we all are, aren’t we?

What would be special or different about that calling?

Doesn’t God have a more unique purpose than that? (the questions begin, a slight trembling of my bright horizon line, and I blink a few times as I continue to pace the pathways of the old, familiar campus)

We live in a difficult time to talk about calling  – the emphasis has landed so heavily on our uniqueness, on our gifting, on how God has specifically called each of us to each particular, discreet, place and time and conversation, that we have forgotten how much of our calling is universal, even, dare I name it, ordinary. We spend time seeking the very thing only we can do, imagining that calling must be there, where deep gladness and deep hunger meet (I kept the napkin with that Buechner quote from a three years ago) but also where they meet and I am unique there, a pioneer.

“I’m called to praise.”

That’s what I can’t shake off. I think about the way that words can sing out from one person to another, can Name (you know, like Meg?) things as real, can breathe love. I think about how maybe my life can be flamed with praise. How maybe I can sing in the kitchen to children in the future that we should praise the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation. I think about the world, lit by praise, the hard work of perceiving what is true so that it can be mirrored and imagined and understood.

I don’t know what it holds, exactly, but you know me with things like this – I just can’t get over it. The calling to praise. Perhaps now I am just to listen closer. To the world, to people – and maybe listening is where we can begin.

Love, always,


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