A few weeks ago my friend Craig was organizing a Radiolab Service at Common Table– a format that pays homage to the masterful radio show/podcast of the same name, wherein many folks chime in on a particular topic from many different perspectives and through many kinds of artistic engagement (I prefer to call it ‘Midrash’, but that title never caught on). The topic for the day was ‘spiritual experience’– what is it, what is like, and how does it work. This is my brief contribution.
They should really call ‘Craigslist’, ‘Crazylist’, since it makes you a little insane. It’s Crazylist’s fault that I’m driving to Arlington on a Saturday morning, Crazylist’s fault that I rushed through breakfast and snapped at the kids to eat quick and get dressed and get into the car and put on your buckles and let’s go! We need to drive our car (which we also found on Crazylist) to some random storage unit to see a man about a skillet.
On the way there, one of the kids is reading a book while two of them are having a small skirmish. This summer, kid #1 learned a special song at The Wild Goose Fest, and she taught the song to kid #2, who taught it to kid #3. It is a beautiful song about love and sharing, which makes it all the more interesting that they are fighting about who should or should not sing it.
It seems that kid #3 is inspired to belt it out as best she can, and it is a beautiful song for a kid to sing, a song about the Holy Spirit envisaged as a wild goose.
I saw her today
when I woke up
she was flying high
with the rising sun
she was flying strong
I could hear her song
she’s a wild goose
and she knows the way
and she’s not afraid
of the sto-orm
I will follow her
and sing her song
to lead others in her love
stretch out your arms
flap them around
see if you can fly
now slowly come down
and wrap them around
all the people
she’s a wild goose…
(Tracy Howe Wispelwey, 2012)
It’s been a long time since I sat down with my Bible in the still quiet of morning’s dawn to do a ‘daily devotional’… otherwise known as a ‘quiet time’ in my evangelical upbringing. I’m not a dutiful devotee of personal piety, but I’ll tell you what: the Bible often comes alive in the backseat of my car.
Kid #3 is joyfully singing, and Kid #2 won’t have any of it. It matters not that the littlest one has impressively learned both the lyrics and the tune, nor that she is having a great time. Kid #2 insists that she stop in a pitched voice, and, that failing, decides to sing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star“, quite loudly, as a countermeasure. As a protest song. She refuses to join in and sing along, insisting only that her little sister stop.
If the prodigal son had two sisters, they would be named Luci and Mira.
I suggest that kid #2 allow Kid #3 to finish the song, which she finally does. In the quiet that follows, I ask Kid #2 to sing a song of her choosing. More silence. She clearly can’t think of one. Finally, she does a few lines of “Twinkle, Twinkle“ before she gives up for lack of interest. Then, more silence. Until she finally launches in to… you guessed it… the Wild Goose song. But it’s gotta be a solo, baby!
The prodigal son’s big brother lives again. Jealous of her sibling, stealing joy and squandering grace and blind to the true gifts of God. Pray to God that she gets past her sibling rivalry. Pray for me, too, that I’ll learn to be glad for the grace that goes to others.
The Skillet Guy has a garage-sized storage unit bursting with a veritable mountain of cooking gear. And not that celebrity chef junk from Target, either, oh no. Each piece has been carefully selected from the most primo makers of premium cooking equipment. Why, rolled out in the hallway alone (on several professional-kitchen quality stainless steel shelving units) are many tens of thousands of dollars of gear. Now that he is retired, he finally has time to get it all organized in clear plastic bins so he can find everything. Everything, it seems, except for the 3-quart saucepan he also wants me to buy from him.
And why is he selling all of this stuff? Because this stuff is the same stuff as the stuff he already has. Over the years, when he couldn’t find something, he would just buy another piece. So these are the doubles or triples of what he already has. These are his leftovers. Which might be a great thing for a cheapskate like me, with cash in my pocket and a love for wheeling and dealing. Except that Mr. Skillet is so in love with this stuff that he’s not cutting a deal on any of it. He will sell each piece only at exactly half of its new purchase price. He is buried under a mountain of stuff he doesn’t need, but he won’t let any of it go. I’d give him 5 bucks for one of the 3 corkscrews he has, but no, he bought that one at Williams-Sonoma and it is worth far more than that! This is no fire sale, he says several times.
Heck, he should just *give* the stuff away, if only so he doesn’t need to be here all morning on a Saturday to sell off perhaps 1% of his collection in bits and pieces. He is the man who has stored up for himself in barns, but whose life will soon be taken from him. He’s a hoarder, though his great wealth provides some cover for his unhealth. Someday soon, it will all be a huge burden to his children, who will sell it all off for pennies on the dollar.
After a quick stop at the Home Depot for light bulbs, I treat the girls to the new Dunkin’ Donuts that just opened in our town. Decaf with cream and sugar for me, and warm milk for them. Two regular, two chocolate, all glazed. And partway through our snack, I look to my left at a woman who is looking at my youngest daughter. Her wrinkles are stretched tight as she grins wide at the wonder of a little kid eating a doughnut, and then she sees me looking at her. I grin back, and her eyes dance as she smiles all the more. She doesn’t need to say anything– I know from her smile that she is remembering herself and reminding me that life is full of goodness, that children are a blessing, that love is precious, and that time is fleeting. I turn from her to enjoy the people at my table all the more. The scales have fallen off my eyes, and my heart is inclined to my Creator and to my created in a new way. Thanks be to God.
What is a spiritual experience? I have had more spiritual experiences than I can count, and it isn’t even lunchtime yet. *Life* is a spiritual experience, with sages and mystics and cautionary tales at every turn, every day and in every way. We just need eyes to see it.