Turning Around

This weeks upi column

So There we were...

On a back road outside of Cave Junction, Oregon. We were having a day off on an extended preaching trip. My best friend and ministry partner, Alivia Biko was driving the Unctionmobile. Our holy transport is an inferno red PT Cruiser decked out with some Holy Ghost flames, a dashboard saint of Margaret Fell the mother of Quakerism, a red #3 cue ball stick shift knob designation the three parts of the Godhead and a license plate that read UNKSHN, because Oregon would not give me seven letters. Unction is a perfectly good word that my Methodist preacher grandfather used to use for any special blessing that came from God. We were headed for the beach and driving through the enclave of Takilma, a small spot on the Oregon-California border, populated by anarchists, peaceniks, heavily armed aging hippies, and an assortment of folks who wouldn't stand out in that sort of a crowd.

We had been discussing the nature of spiritual journeys, and had reached the consensus that it is always better to go forward, rather than back, no matter what the circumstances. Naturally at that point, we realized that we had missed our turn and were on a dead-end dirt road on the wrong side of town. We humbly turned around and headed back into Takilma.

Then we came upon a walking woman. She was beautifully attired in exotic cloth and dripping with dreadlocks. She extended her thumb. In Takilma, this passes for public transport, and not wanting to appear un-local, we stopped and loaded her in. Her ganja perfume was quite striking. She thanked us for the lift and gave us directions to a farm down the road, which she said housed the local volunteer-staffed radio station: read in here pirate-radio, as in Radio Free Takilma. This radio station served the community; calling out the volunteer fire brigade, the staff of the free clinic, or telling a mom without a phone that she needed to pick up a child at the dome school. In between community service, any resident could run their own radio show; turns out we were transporting the mistress of Reggae. When we left her off, we exchanged a mutual blessing, and proceeded on our way.

Immediately my stomach knotted - you know that feeling - the one you have when you have missed something really good, or when you have ignored a nudging of the Spirit. Alarmed, I turned towards Alivia, and it was clear I wasn’t the only one disturbed. She said in a sad tone, “You know, we should have given her a CD.” Alivia is a musician, gifted with a voice that God doesn’t give out very often, and she had that week released her first CD -- we had a box of them in the car.

“Turn around” I said, "Take us back, and I'll try and find her! -- Rats! God put a real-live radio lady in the car, and we almost missed her!”

Alivia executed a beautiful, full speed U-turn, and back we went into Takilma for the second time. We found what we thought was the track into the ferny woods onto which our lady had disappeared. In this part of the country you want to be a little cautious about whose vegetable patch you enter unannounced. I walked onto the land, hoping I was on the right place. I met a man coming down the trail.

"Hello Friend -- I'm looking for the radio-lady."
"Hello Yourself, She just signed on -- back there in the trailer."

I walked up a narrow path in the brush until I saw a rusty old, beaten down trailer. I barged right in. Inside it looked like the space shuttle. The radio lady didn't look surprised to see me; perhaps this lady was not surprised by much.
I got down on one knee and pleaded.

"I had to come back - You see, I'm a traveling Quaker preacher, and Alivia, who you just met driving the Unctionmobile, has just this week released her first album of truth music. We're here to preach and sing the Gospel tomorrow in Cave Junction. We should have given you a copy of the CD before we dropped you off. Could you, would you, please, oh please, give my best friend her very first radio air time?"

"Of Course, I’d be glad to.” said the reggae princess.
She asked me to write down what song she should play, as well as the info on our gospel gig.

”Now, go get back in your car so you can hear it." She dismissed me with a regal wave.

I picked track 4, Art of Life; lovely song, very nature based - not too Jesus pushy- just right for Takilma, I thought. I thanked our radio patron, hugged her, laid every blessing I could think of on her, and ran for the car.

“Drive Livi, and get that radio on!” Then, the mellow tones of our new friend came through the stereo speakers.

"Friends, this is Sister Mona Lisa, and as you know this is usually an all-reggae show, but today we have had a visitation."

She went on to talk about her lateness for her shift, the unusual pick-up by traveling Gospel ladies in a flamed out car, and my return and request.

"It is amazing to me how the Most High makes Herself known in our lives" she said, "I thought I was late, but God had something else in mind, and now I have the great honor to give Sister Alivia Biko her very first air time. Praise Be. Blessings on you, road sisters, you just keep on preaching the Good News - here is The Art of Life."

Then we heard Alivia's voice, but {bold}not{/bold} singing Art of Life, she was singing Walk On, a song that is a refrain interspersed with powerful bursts of Scripture. Alivia was on the air for sure, but God, not I, had called the tune! I whooped, I hollered, I noticed that Alivia was pretty quiet.

"What do you think? How do you feel?" No answer.
"Liv, are you ok?" No answer.

Hand waved in front of her face. No response. I gently put a hand on the wheel.
"OK, were gonna slow this car down, OK? - That's it, lift your foot off the gas pedal, pull over just a little, that's right, stop real gentle, I think I'll drive for a bit."

I got out, and opened Alivia's car door, got her out, supported her buckling knees, got her in on the other side, and off we were again. She recovered herself shortly after the tears started to flow.

Friends, take it from me. In Christ, there is no such thing as lost; not physically, not spiritually. You may think you are on a detour, but don’t count on it. The Most High will make Herself known. Participate, listen, be open, follow your leadings, grab the opportunities you are given with both hands. Turn back if you have to. All things are possible. Glory -- nothing less -- is around the next corner, but she may be wearing dreadlocks and have her thumb out.
Don't miss her!

Alivia Biko’s music including the two songs referenced above may be heard at