Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Purple Rain

For no particular reason I can recall, I never quite connected with Prince, except that every time I happened to hear ”Purple Rain”, I thought, Whoa, that’s some mighty fine blues.

And now Prince died. I read a few articles and watched a couple U-tube performances the articles linked to, and learned to appreciate the fellow so deeply that a couple days ago, I downloaded “Purple Rain” and since then have listened to it obsessively. If I’ve ever been as moved by a song, the memory has flown.

I used to be mystified by the purple rain image, and a little put off by it, as some of us tend to be when we find ourselves clueless. But this past week, it only took a few times listening until I knew, as sure as I know anything, that purple rain is the holy spirit.

Skeptical? Listen for yourself.

Should you not believe in the holy spirit, call it the muse or whatever else you may consider the source for inspiration, or the part of our nature that guides us to and through what some call intuition, and into every sort of transcendence. No doubt many would contend it begins with or results in brain chemistry. No matter, the effect is so powerful, so transforming . . . see below.

I’m in Tucson for reasons probably irrelevant to this discussion. I’m alone, no Zoe to occupy my energy, fewer distractions than when I’m home. This evening, I listened to “Purple Rain” on the way to dinner at Rocco’s Chicago Pizza, a most delightful establishment (on Broadway, in case you should visit that part of the world). Only seconds after I took a patio seat, I heard a man at the next table telling a joke: the Pope dies. St. Peter takes him to someplace reminiscent of a Chicago El train stop. The Pope says, “I didn’t expect heaven to be quite like this.” As St. Peter begins to respond, a server interrupted my attention. If you know the end of that joke, please send it to me. I might’ve asked the man to repeat it, but he had already segued into a story about swimming in the ocean and running into a Portuguese man of war, which, as he pointed out, is purple. “Fitting,” he said, “since purple is the color of danger.”

Whoa, I thought. The holy spirit is dangerous all right. It can break “the frozen sea inside us”*; force us to witness us who we really are; and/or compel us to gaze into an abyss where we learn that “if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” **

If we survive, we are rich beyond measure. If we don’t, who knows?

Thank you, Prince. You have given me a bountiful week.

* Franz Kafka
** Friedrich Nietzsche

Inspired?

I go to a church where people occasionally stand (or remain sitting) and bring a prophetic word. And I suspect the inspiration they receive that prompts these outbursts may be of identical substance to the inspirations that seem to compel us writers to feel what people call “in the zone,” as if the words we write are coming from elsewhere.

I was having lunch with Charlie Gregg, a pastor and pastor’s kid. He’s witnessed probably thousands of what church folks call “words of knowledge” and also written plenty of sermons, devotions and stories. He agreed with my comparison and added, “I feel most convinced that the promptings are from God when I’m in worship.”

Perhaps that’s a universal experience. If so, and if we could all find a worshipful (or thankful or open-hearted) attitude to write within, we’d likely be more open to the spirit’s instructions.

Spirit?

Morty Sklar founded a publishing venture called The Spirit That Moves Us.

That’s the spirit I mean.

As most earnest writers would agree, we write because we have to. We get depressed when we don’t. Something tells us to write down what we see, feel or imagine. After we’ve followed that direction, something tells us, “Develop that more, you haven’t told the whole story.” When we ask, “What’s the whole story?” something says “You’re only going to learn that by telling it well.”

In the end, when we’ve created a story or poem or essay that seems to transcend what we know and what we intended and that teaches us something new, we probably feel closer to the joy God knows in creation than anybody other than creators can feel.

Maybe the something that urges and compels us is what we Christians call the Holy Spirit. If so, we should pay more attention to that advisor.

On ChristianityToday.com, I read: “I’ve puzzled over a riddle for some time now. It goes like this: Those who call on Jesus for salvation are given the Holy Spirit. It’s through the Spirit’s power that we, simple jars of clay, are able to shine golden and do wonderful things beyond our human capability. So, why do Christians, who claim access to the original creator, so often produce poor art?”

One reason may be that Christians tend not to value their imaginations as much as they value order and discipline. Art can be messy.

I suspect most artists could get diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. But, at least in most cases, I wouldn’t consider that condition a disorder. I’d call it a blessing.

When I start to pray, after a few seconds, my mind drifts, and the prayer gets left behind. I’ve tried meditating. My mind refuses to shut down, or even relax. Now, “prayer warriors” and avid pursuers of meditation would no doubt assure me that practice would bring control over my wandering mind. But so far I haven’t felt God urging me to dedicate myself to lengthy prayers or daily meditation. I have, though, sensed him telling me to write most every day.

I suspect we artists were created to scatter more readily, to be more self-propelled than other folks, and to resist imposed structures. So, maybe our best road for inching or rushing closer to God is the same road that will lead us toward better paintings, songs or stories. Maybe, since God appears to have designed us to make art, we’ll never find peace or please God any other way.

Or maybe I’m nuts.

A selection from Writing and the Spirit, by Ken Kuhlken