I've never felt a sense of equal calling until I sat and listened to the handful of public and published poets cast their spell of words upon us who listened last night at the poetry event hosted by the Festival of Arts in West Central.
I didn't realize just how parched I was until they poured their finely crafted words over my gulping soul. The obsidian baptismal fount placed prophetically in front of the podium became a symbol of small new life for me. I felt the direct call into ministry from God at the day of my teenage baptism, down in cold waters the Tualatin river in Oregon. Last night I heard that voice calling again.
I've never thought I could give myself to anything else other than pastoral ministry and be faithful to that call. I've always assumed the sacred fulfillment of my yielding to God's direction would find its fulfillment within church ministry alone. Last night words converted me in a fashion that felt like another birth deep in my aching heart. I realized all of these things I love...are part of my call.
"Loving language means cherishing it for its beauty, precision, power to enhance understanding, power to name, power to heal. And it means using words as instruments of love," wrote Marilyn Chandler McEntyre in "Caring for words in a Culture of Lies."
Lynda Maraby, Thomas Soeldner, Thom Caraway, Kat Smith and Laurie Lamon were the guilty bards who stole my heart and breathed new hope into my mind. I felt at home in ways I've not felt in a really long time and it was the simple reading of short lines of words that welcomed me into an embrace of joy that rarely visits me.
Lynda tempted me with a French titled poem about an aging street woman. Thomas made me cry out "AMEN" with his manifesto against encroaching lights in the country. Thom spoke holy words from his life in West Central that made me realize that I am not alone. Kat spoke with a vulnerability that made a friend out of me even though we just met and Laurie made me want to hug her with the kind of embrace that someone rescued from a kidnapper would give.
If you read these words and think I'm being grandiose or too generous with my descriptions, than you probably don't know the power of words, particularly well spoken words of poetry. I do not lie.
Laurie read her poem "Not Talking" and these lines best captured my longing as a writer and speaker:
"...I want words that stall to keel and vaporize, I want a noun exact as a swung axe tracing eye's plumb line from north to south. I want a verb precise as the optic nerve, gravity's burn, a beak's first tap."
Thom's poems probably spoke to me the most considering where I am at in this season of life. He talked about naming things and streets in his time with us and I thought about how I had walked down a sidewalk that had the name of the street imprinted in the cement. I went there this morning to take a picture of that simple act of articulating place. I wanted to remember that what we write matters, it lingers, like that evening still holds me in its grasp.
I am very honored to have become acquainted with a few of the literary treasures in Spokane. This city is a better place to live because they write and speak in her streets and I aim to leave my words behind me as we'll.