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

When the Path Feels Lonely

 

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Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8……A Time for Everything……”There is a time for everything, and¬†a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”

At one time early in faith, I was full of idealistic thoughts and impressions of God’s people set apart from the world. Everyone that is¬†child-like in faith is like that. Even though I knew I was wretched, they weren’t, and¬†I viewed all of them as if put up on a pedestal of maybe not perfection…but goodness…righteousness…the right people. I submitted to them. I gave right away to them. I listened. I bought in. Then I matured. I found they were just like me – wretched. I remember the first time I had that revelation. A young husband, young father, new believer…I was serving our church playing music as a then¬†pioneer of contemporary services. I was partnered with this big, wonderful, musical soul who played keyboards, sang pretty badly but with all his heart, and taught me a great deal about playing music on the fly. Our new experimental service was on Saturday nights. My wife and I loved it. She sat with our infant daughter in the sparse congregation, and I served on stage¬†playing a horribly cheap electronic drum kit. We loved our Saturday nights. A new Bob Evans restaurant had opened just down the road and we’d go eat there when church was done. I’d get steak and sunny side up eggs every time. Happy times. Cherished memories. Then our pastor left.

I’d never seen a church power struggle before. I idealistically believed churches were run totally by happy people with nothing but gleeful intents and purposes. Wrong. The teeth were shown, the fangs unleashed, and it was ugly. The new pastor sent was a female with only administration experience under her belt. She was a paper pusher. The situation called for strength…she was the opposite. They ate her up. One night at band rehearsal I was sent to go make copies of the music¬†for the night. I didn’t know where I was going in our large church. Never made copies there before. So I opened a door that I thought was the copy room, but instead was a board room and inside were all those same wolves. They made it perfectly clear I was not welcome and that I was an idiot for thinking the copy machine was there. I slinked out with my head down. That moment has forever stayed with me. Trust broken. Faith matured. Man – sucks.

These paths we walk with God? There is a time for everything. Sometimes…in fact, often…that path is very lonely. There are moments that I feel like nobody at all has any clue what I’m talking about. No¬†idea what I’m trying to say. I can be in a room of 100 people that all know me, and I’ll feel like I’m far away on another planet all alone. A time to be lonely. In the scripture above, we all relish the good portions of that list, but we also suffer the counters to them. This lonely thing isn’t fun. I don’t like it. But that’s the path. There is no Godly¬†option of “Easy Path Only.” Then, as promised, the lonely is replaced by those connecting souls God puts in our path with us for seasons. None of us worthy…none of us good…but we walk in faith together on that path towards Him. And then we part. Back to the lonely trail. Knowing the Lord Jesus Christ is always by our side and in our hearts, but also knowing we must experience these things. The same way I needed to know that churches were just like any other place – broken people doing what broken people do. Does that make the church unnecessary? Absolutely not. It makes it irreplaceable. Can you imagine a world where we were no longer even trying to rise up to God’s calling for us? We’ve seen those societies on earth many times. They always end in death and destruction. The church survives because it represents hope.

If you find yourself on the lonely part of the trail, dive into his word even deeper. Hardly anyone dives in at all…another terrible revelation I’ve learned…but we must, and when we’re lonely, like David, we call out to our Father for comfort and understanding. What he will put in your heart, is that there is a time for everything. You are every bit as important as all the characters in scripture, and you’re living God’s continuing story right this moment. You’re the character. Your happiness, your suffering, your triumphs, your failures…this is God’s work in your life. Recorded. You’re David. You’re Saul/Paul. You’re Peter. You. God’s word is not past tense – it’s now. It’s eternal. Timeless. If this doesn’t make sense to you, don’t fret, I don’t make a whole lot of sense to¬†hardly¬†anyone right now. <<< That’s a devotional attempt at humor ūüôā But, I make sense to my creator. And this is my story. Keep walking.

Gary Abernathy