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 Rain Won’t Stop…

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Psalm 69, Verses 8-12: “I am a foreigner to my own family, a stranger to my own mother’s children; for zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me. When I weep and fast, I must endure scorn; when I put on sackcloth, people make sport of me. Those who sit at the gate mock me, and I am the song of the drunkards.”

There are so many, and they continue waiting for the sun to break, but the rain keeps pouring down. The clouds swallow them up, and when there is a break and a hole in the cover appears, it closes back up before they even have time to exhale. There are so many. What is their remedy? Where is their salvation?

The psalmist, David, knew this despair deeper and as prolonged as anyone who has ever lived.¬†When you’ve become the “song of drunkards” it’s hit rock bottom. Singing their torment at you with folly and laughter. “Poor David can’t find his God, look at him cower in his fever, Poor David calls out to his God, how stupid a man this believer.” Then they pour another round as they toss rocks his way. I made that lyric up here on the spot, but I imagine it to be pretty close to what the drunkards would sing. What did David do? He pleaded more with God…”You know I am scorned, disgraced and shamed; all my enemies before you. Scorn has broken my heart and has left me helpless; I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I found none. They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.” Does that sound familiar? The Lord, Jesus Christ, would also be given vinegar for his thirst later down the road.

David had everything stripped away to the last shred of human dignity and Jesus the same. Stripped bare and left for the gnarling teeth of the jackals and fools of this world. To lower depths no man has sunk further. Are you in a lowly position in your life? Are you drowning in the never ceasing downpour? What have been your reactions to pull yourself out? Most will pray and plead, but what else? What did David do? He praised. Then he praised more. His faith in the mercy of the Lord never wavered.

“I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord more than an ox, more than a bull with its horns and hooves. The poor will see and be glad – you who seek God, may your heart’s live! The Lord hears the needy and does not despise his captive people. Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and all that move in them, for God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah. Then people will settle there and possess it; the children of his servants will inherit it, and those who love his name will dwell there.”

When I feel swallowed up in life…when I’m in despair…I call out to God just like David did, just like most of us do, but for most of my life I only called for the pulling me out of the mess so I would no longer suffer. I thought no deeper than that about the situation. Our Father rebukes and teaches us discipline in many ways. Suffering is one of those methods. So what is your reaction? Are you just asking to be rescued, or are you asking to be changed? Are you just asking for selfish remedy to your problems, or are you making the efforts required to not fall right back into the same problems as before? The problem is not the world, it’s not our friends, it’s not our family, and it’s not with God. It’s us. We have the fatal disease of sin. The cure…the remedy…is with the physician, the healer, Jesus Christ. He comes to get us and his hand is stretched out within grasp of our drowning bodies, but we have to grab it. With hand stretched out to Peter who had sunk into the sea, Jesus said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:31

Faith isn’t just something to hold in your pocket when needed. It comes with responsibilities, and it comes with an owner’s manual that leaves not a single detail of life out – The Bible. It wasn’t until I dutifully started reading mine that I began to¬†gain understanding. That I began to¬†acquire¬†wisdom and knowledge. The reason I knew this¬†psalm was because I read them over and over every single day. Proverbs too.¬†God’s lifeline to mankind.¬†Psalms teaches us how to get along with God. Proverbs teaches us how to get¬†along with world. There are things within them both that¬†force changes in our lives. Changes we don’t want to make. When I began to read God’s word with a faithful heart and eagerness to be close to¬†Him, I found myself and my character¬†accused all over them both. It’s not enough¬†to just read a bible.¬†We have to read it with¬†our hearts…we have to read it from a place of love and fear of our Creator. ¬†¬†There is a narrow path to safe haven God will keep us on when we come to him to learn. When we put our full dependence on him. That is the way out. Find it and nothing else will matter. It can keep on raining from now until Christ returns, but you and I will keep trekking down that narrow path singing our praise to him as the storm rages around us. That’s the way out.

I write to you brothers and sisters this truth…If the rain will not stop pouring down in your life and your despair is relentless, forget seeking remedy from anything of the world and from any person within it. Seek the face of God. Grab the hand of his son and accept his gift of salvation. Pour your heart into his service and the learning of his ways.

“After many years of great mercy, after tasting of the powers of the world to come, we still are so weak, so foolish; but, oh! when we get away from self to God, there all is truth and purity and holiness, and our heart finds peace, wisdom, completeness, delight, joy, victory.” – Charles Spurgeon

Gary Abernathy