You can’t depend on church to be the only place you receive inspiration, comfort or challenge. Sometimes you just don’t get it there. But that’s okay because God speaks in many different ways besides sermons, hymns or prayers. I learned this when we lived in Switzerland for a year and there was no English-speaking church at which we felt comfortable. So I learned to look for spiritual inspiration and guidance anywhere and everywhere.
I found it first in the fearless friendliness of our dog Max. I could not speak French and neither could he, but it never stopped him from greeting people with an exuberant wag. I learned to do this too although I substituted the wag for a big smile and a hearty, “Bonjour!” (I tried the wag in the mirror and it looked like I was either trying to shake a fly off my butt, or was using a tiny, invisible hula-hoop.)
I heard Spirit speak about courage and gratitude from a coworker of Wes’s who threw a dinner party for twelve—from her wheelchair. “I’m so happy to have you as new friends,” she said, sipping her excellent wine. “People are most important.”
These days I feel as if I get a new spiritual director every two weeks. That’s because I’m editing my new podcast, The Final Say: Conversations with People Facing Death. I did all of the interviews before COVID so it’s been a while since I’ve listened to them. It’s been like finding overlooked Christmas gifts under the tree.
Because I’m not yet skilled at audio editing, I have to listen to these interviews over and over again. I feel as if Spirit is speaking to me through every one of these people. The wisdom and insight they each share seem to be exactly what I need to hear.
So from Bob I learned that the meaning of life is to find the gift and the purpose of life is to give it away and make the world a better place. He also taught me that yes, death is the unknown so be ready for a surprise! He had a twinkle in his eye when he said this. “Above all,” he said, “End with a thank-you.”
From Hal I learned that everyone sees the end of their life differently and we need to respect that. It’s kind of like childbirth: natural or spinal block? Not up to me! It’s the same with death—we need to support the choices people make. Hal absolutely refused any final good-byes.
Genko, a Zen Buddhist priest, reminded me that life is unpredictable. If you think you have everything figured out, just wait a minute. She grew up Quaker and shared with me advice from her father. He told her that she had to be still in Meeting and, “If you have a worry, do what I do. There’s a deep well inside of you. Take that worry, drop it deep inside the well and forget about it. It might not be during Meeting, but sometimes, something will bubble up and you will have an answer to your worry.”
I loved hearing her tell this story, and believe me, I heard it several times as I tried to adjust audio levels and block background noise. The final time I heard it, I thought, “Isn’t this exactly the same as saying, ‘Let go and let God?’”
Such fabulous advice. I felt that Spirit was speaking to me as well.
From Susan I learned that everyone would do better if they lived like they were dying. Yes, she even pulled up Tim McGraw’s country Western song on her iPhone. She said that because she really is dying, she took the lyrics to heart and began to, “love deeper, speak sweeter and give forgiveness that I’d been denying.”
Right now I’m working on Bill’s episode. I am savoring the answer he gave when I asked him about the biggest surprises in his life. “One was getting to know Laura! I knew she was beautiful. I knew she was smart. But I didn’t know how truly wise she was. She is one of the most generous people I have ever known. She sees good everywhere–even in persons who are angry or disillusioned or politically far apart.”
Every time I heard this clip, I thought of Jesus saying, “Love one another as I loved you.” And by that he meant unconditionally, which is a pretty tall order. But I love being reminded of it in this new and different way. I love aspiring to it. And I really love how much this man adored his wife.
We can hear, see, and feel God speaking to us everywhere and anywhere. I’m learning to not only look for it, but to expect it. Yes, it is ironic that this podcast title is The Final Say and yet, I continue to hear Spirit speaking. So perhaps God has no final say. Something to ponder.
Like Bob suggested, I want to end with a thank-you. So thanks for reading and thanks for commenting.
*If you don’t regularly listen to podcasts on your phone, you can access all the episodes from your computer. Click the link above or right here: The Final Say podcast.