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House of Wonder—A Song About God's Persistent, Inconvenient Invitation

"How can I be sure that God is near?

Because you woke me, friend,

And brought me here...

Love is not an abstraction in isolation 

But a real inconvenient kind of invitation."  

"House of Wonder" by Becca Jordan

I was twenty-two before I knew that cranberries were a real fruit. My mom swears that this isn’t true, that she certainly made real cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving every year, but I dispute it. For years, cranberries were only that crimson-colored jelly, ribbed by its long stay in the aluminum can, swaying side to side before it is cut into patties.

Whether it was the 90s or the fact that my family lived on one pastor’s salary, meals to us were about practicality. We were well fed but mealtimes were not about the pleasures of fine dining.  

When I showed up at L’Abri Fellowship in the countryside of England in the fall of 2016 as a twenty-nine-year-old, my understanding of mealtimes had remained untouched since childhood. I was still eating to live. Of all the things I thought would be changed during my stay at a place of spiritual shelter, my philosophy of mealtime hospitality wasn't one of them. But it was.   

This Song Came From a Visit To L'Abri Fellowship

I heard about L’Abri Fellowship as a college sophomore when I read a magazine article about the Christian singer Rebecca St. James. There was only a passing sentence that referred to a place she went to for a sabbatical and its importance in her latest album. I was curious enough to stop reading. It was 2006, so I "asked Jeeves" about it. I wrote it in my journal as a place to go to someday.

In 2015, shortly after I moved to Nashville and was unhappy at my job. I decided it was time for a sabbatical.  

At L’Abri, there are workers, helpers, and students. Workers are couples, families, or single people who live and work at L’Abri. Their backgrounds are diverse: psychologists, doctors, stay-at-home moms, poets, writers, artists, theologians. They oversee the work of L’Abri. The helpers are a  small group of people who have visited L’Abri and have volunteered a term of their lives to remain at L'Abri to support the workers. They oversee daily chores and cooking meals, among other tasks.  Anyone else who shows up as a visitor or guest is a student.

That Morning Lindsey Came Upstairs to Get Me

Each week, different workers are responsible for hosting breakfast, where a small devotional thought is usually shared and the events and activities of the day are reviewed. One week, a worker named Lindsey was in charge of hosting breakfast. My friend Shona and I were lollygagging in the bathroom, brushing our teeth together, when Lindsey came into the bathroom and told us that we were late to breakfast and that she was not starting until we got down there. Shona and I glanced at each other and promised we’d be right there.

I was miffed, so after breakfast, I asked to speak to Lindsey. I don’t recall our exact exchange, but I remember it being a very honest conversation: I asked why she had to run such a tight ship when it came to a place of refuge, and she explained her intentions and reasons why. We made our peace. I decided to respect her but saw no potential for a blossoming friendship.

Man, was I wrong.

In 2019 I flew back to England to sing at the first Hutchmoot UK conference. Lindsey drove to Oxford to participate in the conference. I found myself sitting next to her at a creative writing exercise under the leadership of Jennifer Trafton. Jennifer's exercise was called, “House of Wonder.” It followed a Mad Lib format of a short story complete with blanks to write in your own nouns, adjectives, and verbs. Our words, Jennifer instructed us, would come from a pile of words on the table she left for us. Lindsey and I had a delightful time deciding what the foundations of this "house" would be, what would be in the kitchen, etc. We both signed each other's copies and being the sentimental sap that I am, I saved it and placed it in a book.  

A Kingdom of Tea and Strangers

Years later, after Lindsey and her family left L'Abri, I was at her house and she asked if I heard about a documentary that two young filmmakers, Houston and Debbie Coley, were making about the English L'Abri called A Kingdom of Tea and Strangers. I had not.

When I later met the Coleys, I told them that Lindsey and I didn’t exactly start off on the right foot. I recounted the story of being summoned to breakfast and how off-putting I found it. Only, with the perspective of years and having become friends with Lindsey, I found that the story had taken an entirely new shape.

“It’s actually rather remarkable to be expected at  breakfast,” I said, “and for someone to come looking for you in order for you to join them.”  

When Houston later asked if I would help contribute a song to the documentary’s accompanying album, he asked me to write about the breakfast story. I was nervous even though I had written about L’Abri in the past and had released one song already inspired by one experience there. ("Everywhere I Go")  

The Song Takes Shape

During the time I was working on this song, I read The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection by Robert Farrer Capon. In this unusual and beautifully written book, Capon, a chef and retired priest, weaves together reflections on food, theology, and poetry. I thought of L’Abri so much while reading. In particular, the last chapter, The Burning Heart, captured my attention:

“The most splendid dinner, the most exquisite food, the most gratifying company, arouse more appetites than they satisfy. They do not slake man’s thirst for being; they whet it beyond all bounds. Dogs eat to give their bodies rest; man dines and sets his heart in motion. All tastes fade, of course, but not the taste for greatness they inspire; each love escapes us, but not the longing it provokes for a better convivium, a higher session. We embrace the world in all its glorious solidity, yet it struggles in our very arms, declares itself a pilgrim world, and, through the lattices and windows of its nature, discloses cities more desirable still.”

Capon reminded me that the table is not only a place of hospitality but it is a place where our longings are also ‘provoked.’ Later on, Capon writes that all our love is “vast and inconvenient,” and I knew that I wanted to place this truth in the song.

Lindsey taught me so much about love and all its inconveniences with her invitation to me that day and all her invitations to me since. This song is as much a love letter to Lindsey as well as the whole community of L’Abri.   

Meals still are practical (even if the cranberries are real), but now I see mealtimes as the place where my hunger is satisfied and provoked all at once. 

Do you remember when 

in the darkest night? 

I knocked on your door  

and you turned on the light  

You opened up 

Your heart, your home 

You welcomed me inside  

So that I would know I belong  

When the sun came up 

I was still in bed 

You came running in 

To tell me there was bread  

And tea and jam 

you left your seat 

You wanted me to join you 

at the humble feast  

I take my seat at the table  

You’ve been waiting for me 

In this house of wonder 

where my hunger is a blessing 

So we pass the peace 

While I pass the toast  

You read a poem  

From the book of Job  

How can I be sure? 

That God is near— 

Because you woke me, friend,

And brought me here.  

Where I take my seat at the table  You’ve been waiting for here me In this house of wonder 

where my hunger is a blessing 

I come with a heart on fire 

all that I am, all my desire  

Love is not abstraction in isolation 

But a real inconvenient kind of invitation  

So I take my seat at the table  

You’ve been waiting there for me 

In this house of wonder  

Where my hunger is a blessing 


Becca Jordan is a singer/songwriter and worship leader in Nashville, TN. You can read more of her writing at The Poetry of Practical Living.


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