On guitars, Lent, healing and Voodoo Chile...

About 10 years ago my Lenten discipline involved spending two hours every Tuesday night jamming on guitar with one of the area's finest guitarists. I left church meetings early to jam - I built my prayer and visitation schedule around jamming - and I made damn certain that even if I was bone tired I would get my ass into the practice room, plug in my Rickenbacker and get down to the blues, Hendrix, Clapton or whatever else the maestro had in store for me that night. That was the year I found my balance between being and doing: it was also the year that mental health came flooding back into my ministry.

Don't get me wrong: my church didn't understand WHAT the HELL I was doing?!! "What do you mean your Lenten discipline is going to play/practice/jam on your electric guitar? We have a meeting." And I would smile and wave and just leave... I didn't need to explain why spending 35 minutes in an extended blues jam in E was more healing than their meeting. And there was no way I could ever make anybody understand that for a guy who had given 20+ years of his life to sitting and helping church people find a way to make their meetings more productive, what my soul needed that Lent was some "Voodoo Chile" turned WAAAAY up! So I didn't even try.

So tonight, even though I have had a full day of visitation and problem solving - and it would be tons easier to crawl up in from of the TV and "get lost in that hopeless little screen" as Leonard Cohen moans - I'm gonna jam. Acoustically, to be sure, for after all this IS the Berkshires - but jammin' I'll be. It will be prayer and letting go - it will be therapy and getting grounded - and it will be a chance to practice what Rabbi Heschel teaches about the Sabbath: that God really is in charge and doesn't always need me to be involved.
This crazy assed song- and the spirit of the Dead - is at the core of my being. It is the way I do prayer: structure and improv, a theme and lots of meandering until it all comes together in something new. I LOVE the way Bobby Weir transforms Chuck Berry into a call to action - and St. Jerry Garcia just lifts his rifts beyond the mundane to something ecstatic - before offering us all the rock and roll invitation to give our lives over to some "Good Lovin'!"
So all I can say is: Oh my God, onward to Lent!


Black Pete said…
Sounds like a very good spiritual discipline to me, RJ. In fact, I think I'll pull out the old acoustic 12...
As I type this I've got Saint Jer and his Apostle Brent carrying away a (Warfield) theater full of parishioners. Aided by Misters Weir & Lesh and a couple of Rhythm Devils (who aren't really that devilish at all) we learn that we are the Eyes of the World. Eyes are so important for we not only need them to look... but as well as to see.

For some during Lent, mayhaps this music is exactly what's needed to bring a person to that place they need to be. Beautiful music to soothe the soul doesn't spring forth from angels and angels alone... sometimes from electric guitars!!

Peace & God Bless!

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