such strange things [over at Deeper Church].

ImageToday at A Deeper Church, I’m doing something I haven’t done much of on the internet, not even around these parts, though I admit to doing it obliquely.

I’m talking about speaking in tongues and the like, about my past that others call pentecostal though that’s a name I learned much later–we only ever said charismatic, or Spirit-filled.

I’m only giving a snippet of story about something that is far more complicated than I could do in a much longer post, or even a series of them–so I’ll admit to you I’m nervous about it all.

I’m learning that there is still much of this to sort through.

Will you join me at A Deeper Church, with my fragmented tale?

Today, though, it’s the Holy Spirit who comes with fire, who descends like the wind of creation. Today, we plan to read the Gospel simultaneously aloud, in different languages, though no tongues dance above our heads.

It’s lovely and odd when the time comes, with a handful of myriad tongues loose with scripture, disparate paces making swells and lulls with an underlying hum, just like the cicadas that will take this place by force in the heat of the coming months.

When the last language stops speaking and we’ve bookended our reading with the bolded proclamation, Praise to you, Lord Christ, I look down to realize that I’ve been clenching the edge of the picnic table the entire time, the grooves leaving marks of anxiety in my fingers.

I’d love to talk through some of this with you.

yoga, soda, sharpies: a litany.

O Lord, open our minds to see ourselves as you see us, or even as others see us and we see others, and from all unwillingness to know our infirmities,

save us and help us, O Lord.

Winter break, and after long-awaited hugs around the neck I found myself attempting to explain how Eucharist, or communion, has changed for me–and has changed me–since I have started attending an Episcopal church in Waco. It is offered each week, and is the focal point of the service. These two factors alone require some explaining, not to mention what they mean. I stumbled over my words–as I often do when it comes to anything that matters–“I don’t know…er, Presence just means something different to me now.”

But this was not any kind of full answer, and there was no way to make sure the “P” was capitalized as it hung in the air between us; I simply wanted to say a reductionist version of all I meant and have it be enough, expecting the one I was talking with to instinctively take the leap with me.

Even then, how do I talk about such a mystery? So, I rushed. The loved one blinked back at me, pupils scanning my face.

If I’m honest about that moment, I will note the defensiveness in my voice, in the arch of my neck. The I knew it that buzzed behind my teeth. In the desperate instant of wanting to be known, I wanted to share, but I also wanted to prove.

Somehow, I also wanted to talk about yoga, about the moment at the end, after I have twisted and bent, when my instructor tells me to draw attention to my breath.

Suddenly, it feels like a surprise, a miracle, even though I have been breathing the whole time.

I wanted to say that the noticing changes everything. The quality, nature, and rhythm. I wanted to say that this oddly makes me think of the moment after Eucharist when my knees hit red vinyl and it seemed like the same kind of noticing.

But I was afraid of speaking Eucharist and yoga in the same sentence, and I’m not sure it would be the best kind of explanation anyway. So I let myself be stuck in between pride and passion, abruptly deserting the conversation–if you can call it that–altogether.

O Lord, give us nerve to overcome the shyness that fetters utterance, and ease for awkwardness of address; turn us from our sensitive consciousness of ourselves, that we may think with freedom of what is in our heart, and of the people with whom we are concerned.

save us and help us, O Lord.

A few months later, I’m standing to check out at the grocery store, my eyes wide and head shaking. She’s jokingly, flippantly made the sign of the cross.

“Not OK,” I retort.

“It doesn’t do anything, Antonia.”

“Listen, MOTIONS MATTER,” and this draws a little attention from the Dallas-suburb shoppers clad in track suits and designer bags, a meticulous nonchalance. She rolls her eyes a bit and presses her lips together, and I wonder if she is thinking, when will this phase be over?

I do not talk about how our bodies can be engaged in prayer, or about the strange infusion of symbol and meaning.

Instead, I huff and hoist cans of soda onto the conveyor belt.

From self-conceit and vanity and boasting, from delight in supposed success and superiority, raise us to the modesty and humility of true sense and taste and reality; and from all the harms and hindrances of offensive manners and self-assertion,

save us and help us, O Lord.

The last week of Lent, I comment on the premature Easter decorations around my residence hall. The person I’m walking with lightly remarks, “Just celebrating early, I guess.”

I whip my head around over my shoulder and nearly spit, “But you can’t just skip Lent. That’s like missing the whole point.”

Somehow, I can’t hear that I’ve missed the whole point.

And I don’t really talk about Lent or the things I’m learning or where my failures have brought me. None of that is in my voice. Instead, I feel like Lynne Truss of Eats, Shoots, and Leaves, walking around with a Sharpie pen, adding apostrophes and quotation marks everywhere. There are times when the mark may be right, and maybe even helpful, but I do not think it is the way of grace to walk around with the cap off.


From all hasty utterances of impatience, from the retort of irritation and the taunt of sarcasm; from all infirmity of temper in provoking or being provoked; from love of unkind gossip, and from all idle words that may do hurt,

save us and help us, O Lord.

I’m on my way home from a beautiful evening prayer service in Dallas on the day of Pentecost. At the stoplight, I try to look up the lyrics to the last hymn. I clumsily thumb “isaac watt hply spirit” into the search bar in the miniature browser when I’m interrupted by a phone call.

We chat, she asks me how church was, and I’m so ready to tell her. She hasn’t seen a church service in a while, and so a part of me gloats instead of glows. I even edge in a liturgical joke to demonstrate how “with” all of this I am. Somehow, I’m surprised and even a bit hurt when she doesn’t want to continue the conversation.

Tossing my phone to the passenger seat, I’m grieved by my idiocy. Tonight really was beautiful, and true, I think, but I certainly didn’t show it.

From all love of display; from the thought of ourselves in our ministrations, in forgetfulness of Thee in our worship, and of our people…hold our minds in spiritual reverence, that if we sing we may sing unto the Lord, and if we preach we may preach as of a gift that God giveth not for our glory, but for the edification of His people; and in all our words and works from all self-glorificaiton,

save us and help us, O Lord.

Amen.

Quotations are selections from a prayer written by George Ridding (1828-1904),

found in Give Us Grace.

and so i stay to follow.

“But didn’t you say just a moment ago that you had prayed for this kind of clarity? For an answer?”

I catch my breath in the middle of my monologue about “hearing God’s voice.” It’s a late Thursday night in February and I’m barefoot, on the phone with my teacher-turned-friend Bonnie, who has interrupted me with her candor as I pace the prettiest strip of campus.

I had just told her about a conversation with a friend about following well, about the fact that I am utterly clueless about any kind of post-grad plan:

“I want to be obedient,” I told this other friend (and even thought I meant it), “I want to go where I’m supposed to.” I paused to think of the scene in the second book of C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy, as his Green Lady character remarks on the divine command to stay away from the grounded “Fixed Island;”

“If I try to make the story about living on the Fixed Island, I do not know how to make it about [God.] For if I make it that we are living there against His command, that is like making the sky all black and the air so we cannot breathe it.”

As it is, I do not know how to make the story about Him, thinking as I continued,

“But I’m not sure what direction to step in. How am I supposed to obey if I don’t know what to do?”

Until Bonnie pointed it out, I somehow hadn’t seen the connection between that conversation and the one I’m currently having, bare toes prodding the decorative lettuce somebody decided would beautify the place. As it clicks into place, I realize that perhaps the best and hardest thing about friendship is that you get called on your crap a lot more often than alone, more often than you would like.

“Yeah, I guess I did,” I answer her finally.

So why am I freaking out about this?

Because God doesn’t just straight-up, as-close-to-audible-as-you-can-get, talk to you on the back porch of the coffee shop that doubles as your second home when you’re reading Luther of all people, telling you to stay in Waco of all places, for the sake of that Episcopal parish, of all things.

That kind of thing doesn’t happen, right? First of all, I’d have to get over the phrasing of “God told me.”

Really? He did? Well that’s nice.

And if He was going to tell me something, wouldn’t it be to, you know, do something else, maybe something bigger? More specific? Like plant a church, not just go to church? Or leave the country, not stay in the same county?

Amidst the cynicism, a fierce assurance is somehow planted deep, and it is this coupling that makes me feel like a crazy person the whole week.

And He knows this, too. Tomorrow, next week, you will not feel this way. You will doubt your ears, your heart. Write it down, tell someone–confess it, now.

I do not do this right away. I wait several hours, then call my mother, who (at least in this moment) does not think any of this sounds crazy at all. She is more supportive than I am. I get off the phone as my friend Preston climbs into my car. I tell him too–shaking, chattering, riled up–and he acts as if this is the most natural thing, like he expected it. One by one, friends and strangers nod in encouragement when I tell them, either in quiet response to a question or as a blurted announcement all its own.

Or in rambling phone calls under the green light of Pat Neff Hall.

Bonnie, too, accepts all of this with ease. She tells me that it sounds like this is what I was wanting, that it is an answer, and I wonder why it feels different than I had thought it would. In this moment, a string of words from another conversation, another winter, another issue float before me:

Maybe the brave thing is to stay.

And for an instant, one of few, I consider that perhaps the voice on the coffeeshop back porch isn’t just my unwillingness to pack up and leave, that maybe following involves lingering, that Waco might not be the Fixed Island.

And so, I stay.