Sunday, February 04, 2007

Train songs and the Spirit

I've been trying to write about an experience of the Spirit for more than a week, but the words of my own spirit make sense within my being but keep looking empty on the virtual page.

So, I've decided to disguise the experience by writing about train songs.

Growing up, I loved train songs. I loved train songs because my Dad loved train songs. We had two favorites:

Life is Like a Mountain Railway, which no one but us seems to know


Wabash Cannonball

We liked City of New Orleans, too, but felt that it was best sung by Arlo Guthrie.

We loved to sing the other two ourselves.

Ryan loves train songs now, too. Recently, he asked me to sing every train song I knew, and I realized I had never sung Wabash Cannonball.

Within a few nights, he could sing it himself, including the odd third verse about "Daddy Claxton" and his earthly race being over.

Ryan knows a lot about trains. So, the first time he heard the song he surmised that a train called "cannonball" must be tons faster than the fastest train he knew of -- the bullet train. This prompted an odd little lesson in ammunition followed by an explanation that the Wabash Cannonball was a long ago train and the name was meant to imply that it was fast, maybe the fastest of its time, but not as fast as the bullet train.

Tonight, I had needed to rest after dinner and fell asleep, waking up to the sounds of Ryan being readied for bed. After a time, I heard him say: I wish Mom could finish putting me to bed so she could sing songs to me, she knows lots of songs. I took that as my cue (and permission) to enter into the bedtime routine.

He was very sleepy, yet not ready to turn out the lights. I told him that I promised to sing him as many songs as he wanted, assuring him that he didn't need to see the lack of light as a limit on our time together. He jumped at that offer and he told me to sing every song I know, starting with Wabash Cannonball.

He was asleep by the last chorus.

So, about the Spirit...

As long as I have been reading scripture in church, beginning as a lector in the Catholic Church and continuing to my present role in our Water's Edge worship service and as a liturgist in our Vespers service, I have always prayed in acknowledgement of the presence of the Spirit and seeking the Spirit to speak through me.

I do this because otherwise it would just feel like public speaking or public reading, and I want it to be more than that. And, I want it to be not about me but about these holy, though sometimes challenging, words.

It always seems to make a difference.

Several times, of late, that presence of the Spirit in the Word has seemed palbable to me. I have felt a true in-dwelling that really is beyond words.

This happened last Sunday when I read 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 during worship. I had not had time to review the text but read them with confidence yet heard them as if I was hearing them for the first time.

Sometimes I finish reading and feel as if I have come out of a trance. Twice in the past week I have felt as if I was emerging back into my own time from the time and place of the story.

In Vespers on Wednesday, I read the story of Ruth and Naomi and felt -- and this is where words fail me -- felt as if I felt their story as if their words and longing and compassion were speaking through me.

And, in worship today, I read the story from Luke of Jesus calling some of his disciples, and, again, I felt as if I were there, as if I had stepped into the text to tell the story. When I was through, I felt as if I had been there beside the lake.

This is something beyond me. It's not something I try to do. Though, I do welcome it. I just pray to/through/with the Spirit in the hope that my voice will give authentic voice to these scriptures in the hope that the Spirit can use me to reach others with these often beautiful, though sometimes challenging, words.

And I thank the loving Spirit of God for the richness of these experiences for me and I hope that beauty and wonder I feel extends to others.

1 comment:

Marian said...

You are part of it. :)
And I like your analogy. It makes sense to me. My mother used to sing 'You are my sunshine" to me. Now I sing it to Wayne. Makes me feel very near to those I love.

On a more literal but silly note: I very much agree that Arlo Guthrie is the best at singing the City of New Orleans... but I am sort of fond of the Willie Nelson version, as well.

Also, I believe that the grateful dead wrote a little train ditty once. Probably not quite the right time to share that one with Ryan, tho'. :P