Calvary Episcopal Church

Memphis, Tennessee
January 23, 2000, The Third Sunday After the Epiphany
Volume 45, No.4

Let Your Life Speak
It is the title of Parker J. Palmer's latest and very compelling book. Let Your Life Speak. As the author reveals, it is an old Quaker saying. But, as he indicates, its meaning can be so very misunderstood. In Parker Palmer's later years he has arrived at a deeper, more complex, more accurate understanding of that old Quaker admonition. For instance: "Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you." Wow! What a difference!

What a revelation that has been for my life, as I have often painfully, but more accurately, listened to my own life. Like Parker Palmer, I have concluded that one's vocation is not a decision. It is not an act of one's will or determination. "Vocation" is rooted in the Latin for "voice." My life, your life, every life has "Voice." The trick is to let the Voice speak!

In my high school and college years (as our adult children teasingly say: "Back in the olden days"), my life was defined by my experience in athletics. I recall my deep disappointment when my college basketball career ended prematurely. In my dark decision not to be "red-shirted," maybe only when my athletic dreams were dashed, I heard my life speak from within: "Doug, what are you going to do with your life that might make a difference for others." And, seeds for the ordained ministry were sown.

Thirty-five years ago when I was ordained (and at numerous times since), I heard countless voices of family and parish and friends say: "Become a Bishop!" It took years of painful new directions before I learned that "my life" needed to be lived to its own drumbeat, its own voice, and not to the voices and expectations of others. My God, that has been a liberating lesson. My life tells me that no matter what the success ladder looks like in the Episcopal world (or in your own world), there is no higher calling than to be a parish priest. Particularly of a complex, challenging, contagiously, Christ-following church like this one.

Throughout my humbling life and career – as a son, a brother, husband, parent, friend and priest – I have too often been wooed to listen to voices (inside and outside) that would say things like: "Be more popular. Be more peaceful and pacific." "However, before I could impart to my life those intentions, my life had its own intentions. It has meant being sometimes unpopular, regularly restless, and a lot more authentic.

And so, my friends, I commend to you a new friend of mine: Listen To Your Life. You just might hear a quiet, vital Voice.
~Doug Bailey

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