I am sitting on my tiny front porch listening to the lonely wail of a train in the cool southern night trying to find the words to wish someone beautiful, talented, graceful (in all the ways) and incredibly special to me an amazingly happy birthday!
I can’t seem to recall the circumstances of our first meeting because it feels as if her presence has always been a part of my peripheral existence. I can recall in tangibly profound ways the immediate and immense warmth and generosity emanating from this woman each time I am in her presence. I also can recall that every fleeting or sustained encounter I have had with this woman has been a profoundly influential moment in my own journey. As it turns out she has had an undeniable, game-changing influence on many, many people with her manifold gifts. Her work and her lived faith seems to have infused many an influential Christian thinker with paradigm shifting ingredients.
I am of course talking about Phyllis Tickle – Christian, theologian, mentor, luminary, advocate, friend and purveyor of extravagant, unrestricted hospitality.
Ok, now that is a heapin’ helping of praise. And y’all might imagine that a woman of such far reaching influence is inaccessible to wee bloggers and other adoring fan girls. Well that could not be further from the truth. The last time I saw her she was sitting at a picnic table, surrounded by beautiful and muddy campers at a rollicking session of beer and hymns at Wild Goose. In the midst of the rowdy, faithful strumming and singing her gentle light was evident from any point in the circle. All those seated or standing around her seemed to lean in just a bit to bask in her light. When I wheedled my way over to her table, her already radiant face erupted in such genuinely welcoming acknowledgement it was as if I was person she’d most hoped to see that day. And that has not one iota to do with me and everything to do with how I’ve seen her treat everyone, everyone, everyone. Each and every moment I have spent in her presence, from face to face to conversations about emerging practices in digital communities of faith to phone calls to coordinate the creation of her Second Life avatar, to passing greetings while she is surrounded by throngs of admiring Emergents to a fine meal with friends at her dining room table, I have never felt so genuinely cared for, supported or inspired by a single other leader of her influence. Never. At the end of all this praise the highest I can lift up is that this woman, Phyllis Tickle, is pert near one of the finest Christians I’ve ever had the honor to encounter. In all the ways.
Ok, so do you know Phyllis? If not I invite you to get to know her. I could take this moment to copy and paste from her website her many, many accomplishments but perhaps the best place to start is to check out a new book, Phyllis Tickle – Evangelist of the Future where those she’s influenced; “including Diana Butler-Bass, Brian McLaren, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Peter Rollins, Doug Pagitt, Jon M. Sweeney, Jana Reiss, Lauren F. Winner, and others reflect of Phyllis’s influence, and on the challenge that Phyllis’s work poses the future church.”
Happy, happy birthday Phyllis!
Grace and peace,