the faith and writing festival begins with chapel.
i like a poet in the pulpit, leading with poems and prayers.
we sing ‘come thou fount’ and i watch the singers first. then i look over to where the poet sat down and notice everyone’s mouths moving in unison.
we’re sitting in the round and sure enough, when i continue to observe everyone; that grey-haired wendell berry gentleman farmer looking guy and that woman, eyes closed, hands raised – we all know this one by heart.
we sit together, this assembled group from far and near. we sit together and we sing.
that night james mcbride tells the truth when he says this ~
“i sit down and write everyday because i can’t not do it. god has planted story in my heart and it’s my responsibility to write it out.”
he talks about learning to fail. he talks about moving on to the next thing in the blink of an eye, not to get caught by bitterness. i walk around calvin college and something i didn’t see coming is sinking in.
i’ve become bitter about failure.
i’ve put my heart into a couple of endeavors that didn’t go the way i’d hoped. trying to plant a church, writing a book that went nowhere. you know, just a couple of small things.
now i find i’m looking for shortcuts.
but here’s james mcbride in his hat telling me to write the curve and to give myself and my neighbors the chance to make mistakes – and that when things fail, you’ve still got a friend in jesus.
he’s telling me to write the truth that i know. he’s saying that it takes real time.
the air changes when a hopeful group sings songs to god.
it happens in chapel this morning. every top and bottom lip in the room is forming the truest words:
“prone to wander lord, i feel it. prone to leave the god i love.”
i wonder if it’s true. i wonder if everyone in this room was sought by jesus when a stranger, rescued from danger from interposed blood. i don’t know, but here we all are because we hold this one thing in common.
we love stories.
the stories we’ve read and the stories that we’ve written. we love the stories that have formed us as people and shaped our very lives.
i follow the lead of the woman with her hand raised and close my eyes, too. time to stop observing. i’m going to receive what’s given and sing along again, protect what is still innocent in my heart.
i’m part of this old, old story and it’ll be my hope in glory. i love to tell the story of jesus and his love.