journalism, poetry, Seminary

Standing in my calling

Standing in my call
In the labyrinth outside Baird Hall on the campus of San Francisco Theological Seminary, May 24, 2016.

Last week I retreated with my master’s of divinity class, one year after our graduation. The theme of our retreat was “thriving through transition.” I stood in the middle of a labyrinth where, six years ago, I first changed my answer to the question: “Will you change careers, drop what you’re doing now, go to graduate school, and become a pastor?” I said “yes” for the first time in the middle of that labyrinth. Then a little over a year later, I was laid off from my job as a news reporter and forced out of a career that I had loved for nearly half my life.

The psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth has researched a concept called “grit” that is making rounds lately in podcasts and media think-pieces. Here she discusses grit and how to learn it: “Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint….(Growth mindset is) the belief that the ability to learn is not fixed, that it can change with your effort. When kids read and learn about the brain and how it changes and grows in response to challenge, they’re much more likely to persevere when they fail because they don’t believe that failure is a permanent condition.”

During the retreat, led by Carolyn Foster, we heard this poem, which funnily enough hearkened back to my days as a Kentucky journalist:

By expenditure of hope,
Intelligence, and work,
You think you have it fixed.
It is unfixed by rule.
Within the darkness, all
Is being changed, and you
Also will be changed.

Wendell Berry

Even though I had said already said “yes” to a career change, I still felt like a failure and tasted the bitterness of the layoff for months, even years afterward. But as I stood in that labyrinth last week, I rewrote my story of failure. I remembered that I had said “yes” to change many months before being forced to change. I reminded myself that I have agency and power, and that as long as I’m alive, my story is not yet finished. I will keep on changing.

poetry, Seminary, writing

A song of ascents by the migrant laborer

an Advent devotion based on Psalm 126

When we had the good fortune to cross safely into this land, O God, we became dreamers. We laughed with relief, with optimism, and ironically with fear, knowing that the wrong word upon our tongues could end in deportation and undoing.

Those in other nations looked upon us with envy, believing us to be saved, but suddenly we knew in our flesh that it was not yet true. Some of us are still missing. We dream of our grandmothers, sons, nephews, sisters, husbands, grandbabies, back in the land where we were born but don’t belong.

We rejoice because we may now remit and save and feed the flesh of our torn flesh, the bone of our broken bones.  We praise God for our safety. And we plead for theirs.

Restore us, O God. Make us a whole family. Be like the waters of the Rio Grande, so long absent, suddenly bursting forth, washing away the sins and the hurts and the fences, and soaking the soil and renewing life.

May we who sow their fields with our tears then reap with shouts of joy.

May all families who go out weeping, bearing the seeds of dreams, return home with shouts of joy, carrying their own babies, feeding their own families, kissing their own lovers, embracing their own flesh.

journalism, poetry, Seminary

Job: A lamentation

I lie at the side of my road, hollowed by shareholder robbers, identity thieves.
Where is the voice, the calling in the wilderness, I had heard drawing me forward?
I was so distracted by your voice, O God, I forgot to watch the intersections
And you allowed me to be bowled over, and I tumbled and rolled and skidded
Out of my clothing, out of my very skin, which is left on the pavement after flaying
And I lie on my back, open to the slate sky, blank. Who am I without my job?
No one will answer; my compatriots, fellows on the journey, stream by, and you allow
Their abandonment, you let them continue without me. They become my enemies
Unwittingly. I am on the same road, still, but unmoving, and suddenly with perspective
Anew, from below, from the side, from the sidewalk. I strain for your voice, for you
To tell me who I am, how to re-clothe myself, where the pieces of my skin can be grafted
And where I must scar as a reminder of who I was (or still am?) Only you can tell me
What happened, because I was listening to your voice and didn’t see what happened.
And now I cannot hear you.
I cannot hear you.
I know you were there.
Because of you, I am here.
But I cannot hear you now.
Until I stand up. And lose my shame, and decide on my identity, and choose a path.
Then will I hear your voice again. Will I hear your voice again?