Close to the ground

In 1996, while working as a youth pastor at Meridian Friends Church (Idaho), I came across a book of poetry in our church library, On the Edge of a Truth. It was a small anthology from people I knew, and there was one poem, "Definition," by Nancy Thomas, that put to words a feeling I'd often experienced in open worship. When I checked the title page and saw that the collection had been printed by Barclay Press, I decided to give them a call. I found the number listed in the back of our yearly meeting minutes, and when Dan McCracken answered the phone, I asked if there might be any left-over copies of the title (it had been printed 16 years earlier). Dan assured me that one could be found and that he'd be glad to have it mailed to me.

I still have that book.

Not so many weeks ago, Nancy Thomas and I met to talk about her poetry. I didn't tell her in that meeting - I think she already knows - that I'm one of her biggest fans. Time and again, Nancy's gentle way of encountering the world has given me words for my own experience of it. For its beauty. For the immediacy of God's creativity and good humor. For the comfort of a carefully-constructed line.

Nancy and I met because she has a new collection, edited by Bill Jolliff, that we will be bringing into the world later this year. It's called Close to the Ground, a phrase Nancy uses to identify the kind of lived experience with Jesus that has sustained her over the years: "My spirit hums closer to the ground. . . . Loves it when Jesus plays with little kids. . . . Laughs during the prayer. Sometimes forgets to say 'Amen.'"

Eric Muhr