March 07, 2020

Saturday of the First Week of Lent

During my freshman year of college, a handful of my classmates organized a Jimi Hendrix tribute concert in the student pub. All bands welcome, no audition necessary. I was never a very good drummer, but in those years I was just competent enough for people to believe I was better than I actually was. I got together with two buddies, we chose a song or two, and we practiced just enough to hopefully not embarrass ourselves. We weren’t great, but neither did we send the audience running for the exits.

The ‘headliners’ who played later that evening were the ones who had actually organized the whole affair, and they were truly talented musicians. For whatever reason though, that night they were missing a drummer and asked me to fill in. I was severely outclassed.

We only played together that one time. No practice beforehand, no reunion afterward. Our opening number was Fire, and I can’t remember whether we played a second song, because the rest of the evening has long since faded into irrelevance for me. During those brief minutes, I played like I never had before and never have since. I do believe that sometimes great musicians or athletes are able to pull weaker teammates up to their level, but for me that experience was something more. It was truly an out-of-body experience in which I watched from a short distance as the music took over my limbs to do things I knew I wasn’t capable of. Somehow though I managed to stay out of my own way. At the time, I was the ‘spiritual but not religious’ type, but years later whenever I taught students about inspiration and the movement of the Holy Spirit, I always reached back to that simple personal example, and encouraged students to think of theirs.

The week before last, I saw a bird hovering in the air. It had managed to soar in just the right way to stay put where it wanted. Without being able to control the wind, it nonetheless had to entrust itself to and cooperate with the wind in order to stay aloft with such seeming meaningful effort.

This past week, I was privileged to soar again.

Thanks to the invitation of Bro. Rob Clark, my former novice master, I was blessed to serve as spiritual director for a ‘busy students retreat’. Spiritual direction generally takes the form of a conversation but it is really so much more. The Holy Spirit employs the traits, experiences, and instincts of an open director to help the directee discover and better participate in the divine movements beckoning from the edge of normal awareness. Neither person directs the conversation, but as in dance, one person leads the other in order to more fully engage the music surrounding both.

Although I did nothing but contribute my presence and my openness to being used, God’s goodness guided my heart and that of each directee who was moved to disclose and savor unplanned treasures; external circumstances conspired to support the movements of our sacred conversations in each and every case. What looked like two people conversing became much more.

I hope that each directee walked away blessed. In every case, the fruits of our time together seemed both momentous and different than what any of us would have expected. What a reminder to trust.


This week’s ‘ear candy’ ties into the theme of joining into something more than oneself. Regardless of musical taste, I believe the sentiments behind the lyrics will speak to all who believe in music. The ‘brain food’ is an academic exploration of inspiration from the viewpoint of research in positive psychology.

Ear Candy: “Join Together” by the Who

Brain Food: “Why Inspiration Matters” by Scott Barry Kaufman

Come back next Saturday for a new post!