The Grateful Series: Sensational Sounds

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(Photo of me Spring 1998 playing an outdoor festival in Charlotte, NC)

Acts 2: 1-2…The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost. When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.

The description of sounds heard runs throughout scripture from Genesis to Revelation. In both Old and New Testaments, the writers describe the noises they experienced, dreamed, or had been told. None more dramatic than the Day of Pentecost as the second chapter of Acts opens. The Spirit of God filling the room like the sound of a violent wind and entering the bodies of the Apostles.

Our sense of hearing greatly helps to define the moments we experience. Writer, Milan Kundera, wrote this wonderful description…”The sound of laughter is like the vaulted dome of a temple of happiness.” Perfectly true, yes?

In Part 4 of this series of expressing gratitude to our Father for these senses, here are 9 of my favorite sounds in life.

1. I’m a drummer. To be exact, I’m a mostly self-taught rock drummer from age 10 until present. I’ve performed thousands of songs on all kinds of stages through the years, and I’ve done so in my own original style. One of my favorite sounds is truly hard to explain unless you lived inside me, but it’s the sound my drums make when I’m fully caught up in a song to the point it becomes like an out-of-body experience. The rest of the band and the vocals are still there, but I’m driving this temporary creation on pure rhythmic instinct, and it’s nothing short of its own miracle. Like I’m inside the song itself looking out, and I’m listening to what’s being made at the very same time it is being created. It’s beautiful to experience. It doesn’t always go like that, and in fact most times, you’re just doing your job and playing drums. The picture of me above? I was inside the song.

2. The sound of Autumn leaves crunching under my shoes as I’m hiking or walking on a crisp Fall day. I love to play in leaves. When my dad would make my brother and me rake them when we were kids it didn’t seem like a bad chore at all. The entire spectrum of senses and emotions that Autumn engages in our souls always find a warm welcome from me.

3. My daughters laughing. Especially when they were toddlers through elementary, but even now as they’ve grown. That sound. It has to be the closest thing a Father can experience that comes close to the pure sounds of heaven. I would never cease trying to come up with ways trying to make them laugh just so I could hear it again.

4. This one is oddly specific…the sound of chatter mixed with clinking knives, forks and spoons, at the Cupboard Restaurant on South Blvd in Charlotte, NC circa the 1970’s. My dad would take me there for breakfast or lunch often because his office was nearby. I have no idea why, but I couldn’t get enough of that background white noise while we ate. To this day I still think about it when I’m eating at some establishment, and try to hear what I used to hear back then. For reasons that only a professional therapist could bring to surface, those sounds were a great comfort.

5. Waves crashing on a beach when the sound is isolated to the point it’s all you hear. That’s a pretty difficult situation to ever come about, because there are always other sounds mixing in with the waves crashing. When I was just barely 18 years old I was living in our family beach house in South Carolina. This was 1984. Wild growth hadn’t yet overtaken the area, and though our home was across the street from the beach, nothing stood between the structure and the ocean on the other side. The house is on stilts, but my dad had an apartment built ground level as I began college at Coastal Carolina University. By late Fall, the beach population dwindled to few, so late at night as I was falling asleep, all I’d hear were those waves a hundred yards or so from my head crashing. Pure magic.

6. The sound of a woodpecker going to town on some tree deep in the woods. It’s a mystery to me why I love to hear that, but I do, and I got to experience that on a hike last October. I was plowing along shuffling my feet through the leaves as I mentioned above, and I heard that distinct knock. It took me a bit to find that beak beating fella, but I finally did. I just sat and listened happily.

7. The sound of rain pinging off a distinguished umbrella with personality, as I stroll a path or city sidewalk. In those times I laugh in my head and say, “Yes, dad, you’re right. I really don’t have the sense to even know to come out of the rain.” I will gladly put on a raincoat, grab my red and green tartan umbrella, and take a walk through a steady, yet friendly, soaking rain.

8. The jet-like whoosh of a massive stadium filled with people when the home team does something great. It’s a magnificent sound. That initial roar as it builds to deafening levels. I’m a big fan of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers. One of my favorite moments in life was in January 2016 hosting the NFC Championship Game in Charlotte. I was there, along with my older brother, my dad, and my stepmom. It was a frigid evening game against the Arizona Cardinals for the right to go to the Super Bowl. We won. Big. It was fantastic. I heard this sound repeatedly for 3 hours.

9. The sound of a favorite or cherished song(s) coming on at just the perfect moment. This happened to me again today before writing this latest list. I was in our pool with my family here on Memorial Day 2019 in Florida, and floating on one of the high quality new floats my wife and I purchased. They’re super comfortable and perfect for catching some sun. My phone was synced up with the blue tooth speaker I have out there, and right when I was totally relaxed (rare thing) and enjoying the moment, a trifecta of great songs came on back to back to back. “California Stars,” by Wilco, followed by, “Last Song I’ll Ever Write,” by Jason Isbell, followed by, “When You’re Done,” by Lucero. Dude. What a treat ūüôā

Gary Abernathy

The Super Bowl Crown

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1 Corinthians 9: 24-25…“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

Charlotte, NC is one of those types of places that everyone that was born there is very proud of where they come from. At least they are from my generation born in the 60’s and 70’s and before. Mid-size cities are often this way, such as, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Nashville, and other similar sized places. We want people to know our city exists too and that it’s a great place to be. I’m not sure of the psychology behind that, but I’m willing to guess that it’s akin to Napoleonic complex because of being rivals with nearby larger cities. Charlotte has grown such now that it’s losing that quality, but for those of us who are natives, we’re extremely proud when good things happen to it. Which leads me to the Carolina Panthers NFL football team.

We (Charlotte) were awarded an NFL team that began play in Charlotte in 1996. The first year was spent playing in Clemson, SC until our brand new stadium in Uptown Charlotte was completed. Uptown instead of downtown is another story all together, but it goes right back to that striving to be unique and special. The very first event held in what is now called, Bank of America Stadium, was a Billy Graham Crusade. Billy of course being one of those proud Charlotte natives, and he is also a fan of our football team like the rest of us. If you listen to past messages of his you’ll hear his love of NC and Charlotte come forth quite often. 20 years later that stadium and the city of Charlotte will be hosting our very first NFC Championship game between the Panthers and the¬†Arizona Cardinals. It’s kind of¬†a big deal.

I love the game of football both college and pro. I loved playing the game with my friends as a kid. I didn’t so much love playing organized football, and the giant kids that played against us that must have lived by a nuclear power plant. That’s when I discovered there was a limit to my love of football. Ha. That said, I’ve been rabidly obsessed this year with the Panthers best season in our history. Going into the championship game we have 16 wins against 1 loss. It’s been a beautiful sight to behold. When I attended the playoff game last weekend with my family, I began to wonder if me¬†directing all of this passion at the Panthers was a correct posture from a Godly standpoint. It’s a dangerous and slippery slope bordering on idol worship. Often times, the most seemingly harmless activities are the things drawing us away from relationship with our Father. Is that what is happening to me? It’s a very serious question.

So I began to put this against what the Apostle Paul wrote comparing the spirit of earthly competition with the spiritual responsibility that comes with eternal salvation. Competition and games existed in the time of Christ and the Apostles the same as it does now. He mentions racing in the quoted verse, and later he mentions boxing if you go on reading the chapter. Paul does not condemn these things, but instead he uses them as an example for us to adhere for a much higher purpose. “They do it to get a crown that¬†will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

This led me to honestly assess my life from the stance of am I as “sold out” (I really dislike that¬†Christianese term but it fits here) for Jesus as I am the Carolina Panthers? Not that many years ago that would have been a for sure no. But I’m a much different man in my transformation than I was 5, 3, even 1 year ago. My life revolves around Jesus now in all phases. Even football, because I’ve never even considered this to be an issue before, but now the spirit has brought it to my attention. This is what happens when the spirit of the living Christ dwells within us. It was brought to me to consider for a reason. It’s perfectly fine to enjoy all of this creation and the other humans God has created and the great things mankind does, but we must at all times remain with both feet on his narrow path. Eyes forward. If the Panthers lose this weekend I’m going to naturally be disappointed as to what might have been, but my life will instantly go on. I’m in my own race. I’m seeking the crown that is eternal. The Super Bowl crown will fade to dust when mine still shines with his glory as I lay it at the feet of my Savior.

Billy Graham, if he is able in his condition, I’m sure will be watching the game this Sunday. I’ll be there with my family once again, making the 1200 mile roundtrip trek to be in that moment with them. The picture above is one that I took just a few weeks ago while at his library in Charlotte. It’s a signed helmet from Panthers owner, Jerry Richardson, to Mr. Graham, “his friend.” It’s a great moment for the team and for the city of Charlotte and all that love it. But I’ll also have these words from Billy in my mind as I temper my enthusiasm with spiritual reality…“Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion –¬†it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.”

I’ve grown much closer in likeness to the Lord over these many years, but¬†I still have much more growing to do. How about you? Are the things you give your deepest passions to surpassing the passion you give to serving and growing in Christ? Serious question indeed.

Gary Abernathy