Today marks the end of The High Calling as an ongoing web site focused on work and faith.
My personal path to The High Calling was paved with poetry.
In the summer of 2009, I was having a conversation on Twitter with two people I had never met face-to-face. One was Jim Wood, who had a blog called Shrinking the Camel (now a Patheos/High Calling blog) and wrote on faith and work. The other was L.L. Barkat, who had a blog (or two, perhaps three) called Seedlings in Stone and was the managing editor of a web site I had just begun to visit, called High Calling Blogs (HCB).
We were talking about making sandwiches, wine, poetry, and a movie called Bottle Crazy. Within a few minutes, I composed a short poem encompassing all of those elements within the character count of one tweet. We laughed, but something had changed. An awareness, perhaps a bond, had formed with a poetic tweet that connected us.
Later that summer, I was in a bike crash and spent the night in a hospital so the doctors could watch my four broken ribs and partially collapsed lung. Unable to sleep with an oxygen mask on my face, I read Laura’s Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places straight through. It was rare for a book to speak directly, almost personally, to me, but that one did.
Eventually, I screwed up enough courage to start participating in the HCB poetry prompts. I started writing occasional articles. And then L.L. asked me (and Jim Wood, too), to be contributing writers. I made my first trip to Laity Lodge in the fall of 2010 – joining the rest of the “virtual” staff at the writer’s conference. I attended the poetry seminar, and so The High Calling, Laity Lodge and poetry came to be even more bound together in my mind.
In 2012, I became the Twitter editor and discovered The High Calling network, comprised of all of the people who had signed up with The High Calling and had an official network entry on the site.
I went exploring and realized The High Calling’s reach expanded beyond the site and beyond the virtual staff I had come to appreciate and love. It expanded beyond the office in Kerrville and that almost sacred place called Laity Lodge.
I discovered poetry in the network—not actual poetry and poems, although there was some of that, but poetry in the much broader sense of God’s people. To discover this network was, at times, to be overwhelmed by faith. A significant portion of the Bible is written in poetic form, and perhaps for that reason I find a strong connection between poetry and faith.
So, on behalf of The High Calling, I tweeted this network of God’s people, using Twitter to promote the links for their articles and personal blog posts. To tweet all network members all the time would have taken a staff of several people. But I tried.
Who is, or was, the High Calling network? Diana Trautwein. Lisha Epperson. Brock Henning. The Center for Faith and Work. Mari-Anna Stalnacke. Ed Cyzewski. Billy Coffey. Jen Sandbulte. The Theology Work Project. 4 Word Women. Jolene Underwood. Lynn Mosher. Zechariah Newman. Megan Willome. Linda Chontos. Jen Avellaneda. Maureen Doallas. Chris Peek. John Blase. Tanya Marlow.
And hundreds and hundreds more. My RSS reader overflowed with the blog postings of the network. I had to develop a second list of blogs to visit.
I read people who struggled and celebrated. People who hurt. People doubting their faith. People overcoming their doubts. People with seminary degrees. People with a high school education. Single people. People struggling to have children. People struggling to manage families. People who had published books, and people trying to publish books. People with addictions.
I read people who mourned the deaths of loved ones, and one way they had to deal with it was to write. I read people who laughed. I read people who suffered debilitating illnesses, and some who were dying. People who supported the right to bear arms and people who ardently believed in gun control. Political liberals, conservatives, moderates, and independents.
I read the incredible diversity that is God’s church. And I found poetry everywhere I looked, the poetry of faith, the poetry that is faith.
And I learned that, for all of our differences, for all of our politics and denominations, for all of our hopes and dreams and occasional nightmares, we are one in Christ Jesus.
Like all other human endeavors, The High Calling may pass, but that unity will always be.
Related: Change at the High Calling.
Photos: Various pictures of The High Calling staff activities during the past five years, all taken at Laity Lodge in the Texas Hill Country.