Monday, August 31, 2015

The High Calling: A Path Paved with Poetry

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.

Photos: Various pictures of The High Calling staff activities during the past five years, all taken at Laity Lodge in the Texas Hill Country.


Maureen said...

Thank you for including me among those you named, Glynn. I hope we have a chance to meet in person one day. You've been a wonderful supporter, not just of my work and the work of others but also of poets and poetry. Your faith in life is abiding.

Dena Dyer said...


What an honor to work with you and learn from you over the years. I will always treasure the unique moment in time that brought us all together. Thank you for putting things into words so beautifully. And thank you for the tireless work you've done with such a generous spirit.

David Rupert said...

Glynn. You have been an amazing collaborator and friend. But most of all you have been a tremendous encouraging force to hundreds of writers through your Saturday reads, your tweets, and your selfless promotion of their work.

Monica Kaye said...

Glynn, I am grateful to have met you and love the window into your mind and heart for Jesus. It shines into everything else you share with us. "Stone Crossings" is a book I never shelve. In many ways I was stalking each one of you through your High Calling journey. Every bit of it has counted in the Kingdom of God and in my life. Thank you.

Sheila said...

Thank you. For this post, for everything David mentioned, for a priest that dances, for your encouraging words, always.

Take good care, Friend.

Megan Willome said...

Thank you, Glynn. You were so faithful to promote the work of so many people, myself included, and I am very grateful. If you're ever in the Texas Hill Country again, let's go for a bike ride.

diana said...

This one makes me weep, Glynn. You have been the epitome of faithful encouragement and undoubtedly the single most prolific reader/writer I have ever encountered in my life. And that's saying something. Deepest thanks for your encouragement of me and so many others. The hole left by the closing of this place is immense and YOU are largely responsible for that, my friend. You have zeroed in on the heart and center - we are one in Christ Jesus. You and I would likely disagree on lots of fine points, but in the big picture, that doesn't matter one whit. We agree on the center and that is what holds. Many, many thanks.

Jody Lee Collins said...

Glynn, I'm sitting in the darkened auditorium while the lights are way down, tears are rolling down my cheeks. The cast has left the stage but I don't want this act to end, so I stay in my seat.
I have a Playbill in my hand with your name and Sam Van E and David Rupert and Deidra R and Jennifer Lee and the lady (IMHO) who started it all, Laura Barkat, and well, I can't type any more names--and there are a score--'cause now I'm really crying.
Odd that most of you I've never had the pleasure of meeting (except for L.L. and Ms. Deidra) and yet there's this heart tug as if we were close friends. And it does indeed feel that way.
Everyone at the High Calling was such an encouragement to so many of us, as Ms. Diana above has said.

They're turning the lights back up. I must go....sigh. I can comfort myself with the fact that I'll read/hear from you all somewhere around the world wide web. I do hope our paths cross in 'real life' someday.
Thank you.