Fellow Passengers: This week’s Prophetic Passage* (Isaiah 43:16-22) transports me back a few years to the Orange Peel, where I had gone with several friends and family members to hear Junior Brown, inventor of the guit-steel and one of my favorite performers. Junior had a warm-up act that night, a duo I had never heard of, Chip Taylor and Carrie Rodriguez, and I was not too interested in them. It was already late enough, and I was hoping they’d do two or three songs and give way to the main act. They didn’t. Chip, a middle-aged man from New York, played his guitar and sang original compositions of country and western swing music, while Carrie, a young fiddle player from Texas, backed him up with twangy vocals. I soon got over my impatience, as I found myself really liking their music. The song-writing was solid, and the performance had good energy, especially Carrie’s swinging and swaying while she fiddled and sang. Between songs, Chip rambled on some about his life, how he had been a successful song-writer back in the 60s and 70s, but had bottomed out with a gambling addiction, had been banned from all the major casinos for knowing how to beat the system, and was just getting back into the music world. Meeting Carrie in a music store in Austin was what had done the trick. Toward the end, he played one of those hit songs he had written back in the day, Just Call Me Angel of the Morning. Wow, I remembered the Juice Newton version well, and never knew who had written it. Then Chip Taylor told us about his most famous composition. He said he was headed to the studio for a recording session, and a song idea came to him. He didn’t know where he was going with it exactly, but when he got to the studio, he told the engineer he wanted to record a new song. It wasn’t complete, but it would be by the time the tape finished rolling. He told the engineer to cut off the lights as soon as he got his guitar and sat on the stool in front of the mike, and to start the tape. This is what came out, Chip Taylor told us there at the Orange Peel, and he started singing to Carrie, Wild thing, you make my heart sing, you make everything crazy. . . Wild thing, I think I love ya, but I wanta know for sure. . .
When the prophet Isaiah was recording the history of God’s creative and loving involvement with the covenant people, he was essentially writing another verse for Chip Taylor’s famous hit song. God is the one who tossed the symbols of civilized imperial power – the chariots and armies – into the sea, and then headed out for the desert. As God made a way where there was no way, the prophet described the divine love affair with the wild. God left the domesticated life to provide water for the wild animals, the jackals and owls who drank their fill of God’s provision there in the wasteland and raised a glass in honor to the Creator of the wild. In creating a free world, God was essentially divulging a preference for the wild, creating a world in which the creation was literally born to be wild. It is the free and wild world that makes God’s heart sing. And since freedom necessarily involves choice, and oftentimes this means bad choice, the wild world of humanity often makes everything, including God, crazy. It is in the wilderness wasteland of a free and out of control humanity and creation that God makes a Way, a Way through the wilderness, streams in the desert, so that the wild creatures, including ourselves, can honor God as we drink our fill, and as we remember the symbols of our power and hubris lying at the bottom of the sea.
I remember a time in college when a biology professor assigned a book by Aldo Leopold, Sand County Almanac, and I immediately knew in the first few pages that I had found a soul mate. Leopold, one of the founders of the ecology movement, had a love for the wild. He wrote, I am glad I shall never be young without wild country to be young in. (It didn’t hurt that this was the same era when Steve Martin was doing his wild and crazy guy routine). We each find the wild in different ways. For me, living with Kim out on a mountain among the birds and bees and bears, with neither lawn mower nor television signal to interrupt the wild is my way of staying in touch with that Way through the wilderness. Others find it in different places. My nephew Kregg, who was with me there at the Chip Taylor and Carrie Rodriguez concert, finds it in a good game of cards, with some money on the line. After Chip and Carrie’s set, the duo was selling CDs and signing autographs. Kregg and I waited in line, and when it came out turn, instead of saying anything about the music, Kregg immediately started picking Chip Taylor’s brain for tips he might have on beating the blackjack system. I think Kregg has done pretty well at the table ever since, and as a result our church offerings are a little higher. Crazy.
How about you? Where does this Prophetic Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment, and share with friends on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, email, etc.