Hey there. Long time, no blog. I plan on getting back to blogging through Mark soon, but first I wanted to post a little personal news and share a little story about it.
The news is that Sakina and I have been going to this storefront Wesleyan church called Resonate since last Fall. It’s been a long journey since we left our longtime church home over a year ago, but I think this one is a keeper. Which is kind of weird to me, because I’m pretty sure that theologically and philosophically, Resonate is quite a bit more conservative than I am (which admittedly is not all that hard of a place to get to), and they also seem more conservative than the church we left. But what can I say? It feels like home. Now, I’m sure there will be bumps as we actually get to know more people and they get to know us, because people have so much people-ness, and they and we are no exception. But even so, I have a really good feeling.
Now, about that name…
I’ve never been a fan of these newfangled millennial church names. They remind me of sports teams that use singular abstract words, like the Miami Heat (Really??? You’re advertising the worst thing about your city?) or the Utah Jazz (umm…more like Utah Oxymorons, amirite?). I mean, do they think they are actually impressing anyone with their hipster cred? No. No, they are not. A sports team should simply be a plural thing that preys on other things, like, “Cougars” or “Eagles” (Wooooo! Fly, Eagles, Fly!) or “Pirates.”
And is it really a coincidence that church membership across America has been declining since we moved away from “[Number] [Whatever] Church of [Wherever]” names? Probably! But why risk it?
So I say, we need to move away from these sports-namey slick church names for our own good. Also, it’s half-past time we give adjective names the boot (and you know who you are) because if you need to tell me how exciting or hip or friendly or relevant you are, the answer is usually “not very.”
But seriously, all hyperbole aside, this is not hard. You’re all being too cute by half. Stop it.
But “Resonate” …
See, here’s the thing. The name “Resonate” — my preceding rant notwithstanding — it actually resonates with me. Resonate’s slogan is “expanding the sound of Truth.” And I just love it. Which is double-decker, super-duper weird, because 1) it sounds kinda fundy, even though in practice it really isn’t, and 2) way more importantly, I really hate slogans and mission statements!
So what is going on here? Am I losing it?
But this is my best guess at what’s going on.
My therapists talks a lot about minding different things that trigger memories and influence moods, that you need to be aware of triggers in order to manage the feelings that may follow. Now for a lot of people, smells are big triggers. For me, not so much, probably because I have had a perpetually stuffy nose since 1975.
No, for me, the biggest triggers are sounds.
Well, actually the biggest trigger is a very crowded store, especially if it has really tall aisles. Oh, and just people in general. But sounds are, like, a solid third as far as triggers go! And “crowded areas with tall aisles and also people” reaaaaaaally doesn’t work for the blog post I’m trying to write, so let’s pretend I didn’t say anything about any of that.
One of my absolute favorite sounds in the whole world is the sound of a soda can cracking open. Nothing else signals contentment quite like popping open a fresh Diet Dr. Pepper. (It tastes more like regular Dr. Pepper!) And there are few things more joyful than the sound of a bat squaring up a baseball as your guy nails it on the sweetspot, and you know instantly that that baby is outta here! before he even finishes his swing.
At the same time, few things throw me off my game like unexpected loud noises:
A slamming door or a sudden, loud shout stands my every nerve on end and sends my heart racing. It can ruin an entire day if I let it.
A well-chosen song can rescue a bad day, and poorly chosen song can sink one. That’s power.
So I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that I’ve always been fascinated by sound. And sound … sound isn’t just about where that sound comes from. The whole “tree falls in the forest” thing is a thing for a reason. Sound is not just about the source, and it’s not just about the sound wave. It’s also about the receiver the wave finds. It’s about her life experiences and associations. It’s about what those sounds have meant to her over the years. As Jesus would say, it’s about “having ears to hear.”
It’s about context.
I love to read, but for a variety of reasons, reading has been hard for me for the last while. Part of my solution for this was to ask for short story collections for Christmas. Bite-sizier fiction has gone down easier, so I’d say the plan has been fairly effective. One of the collections I got from my son and daughter-in-law was by Eudora Welty (whom I highly recommend).
One particular story in this volume is staying with me. It’s called “The Key.” It’s about an elderly deaf-mute couple trying to make a long-delayed trip to Niagara Falls. At one point, they pull out a postcard of the Falls, and the husband begins to explain to his wife, through sign language, that when they get there, they will be able to “hear” the Falls.
“Do you see the little rail?” Albert began in tenderness. And Ellie loved to watch him tell her about it; she clasped her hands and began to smile and show her crooked tooth; she looked young: it was the way she had looked as a child.
“That is what the teacher pointed to with her wand on the magic-lantern slide – the little rail. You stand right here. You lean up hard against the rail. Then you can hear Niagara Falls.”
“How do you hear it?” begged Ellie.
“You hear it with your whole self. You listen with your arms and your legs and your whole body. You’ll never forget what hearing is, after that.”
I think this is what “expanding the sound of Truth” – the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus – sounds like. It is not just something you hear with your ears. This Sound is something you hear with your whole self: your head, your heart, your soul, your spirit, your gut. It reverberates throughout your whole being.
Not to derail this by getting all sciency, but here’s a breakdown of what resonance actually is. To sum up: a free object has a frequency where it “wants” to vibrate. A natural or resonant frequency. When you introduce a signal that matches that particular frequency, even if the outside signal is tiny, the object says “Yes! That’s my frequency!” and gets all happy with the vibrations. These vibrations can be far in excess of the magnitude of the original signal. This is because the object is not just “hearing” the sound; it is resonating. You could say that it is feeling it or experiencing it. You could even say that resonance is the object participating in the sound.
So what happens when something resonates with us on a spiritual level?
Here’s what I think: I think God is sending us a signal that we’ve already been listening for all along. I think there is a “frequency” that God has placed in each of us from the beginning. A tone we have been straining to hear since creation, expectantly waiting to receive and resonate with this promised signal, this new sound, this Truth.
This new sound — this Truth — it may sound faint to our ears. In fact, we may not “hear” it at all. We may have to lean up hard against a rail to feel it. It may have to travel through some weird and messy gunk to get to us. (And boy-howdy is this world full of messy gunk.) But when that sound, that signal, that Truth – when that Good News – finally arrives, it will not sound faint to our whole selves. Something within us will say, “Yes! This is what I’ve been waiting for. This my frequency. This is good and this is right. This is life!”
This Good News has been hiding inside us the whole time, listening for the signal of hope and the chance to reverberate.
And once you hear it, once you really hear it?
You’ll never forget what hearing is, after that.
Maybe you aren’t familiar with the actual Good News. Maybe you’ve only had the Bad News shouted at you over the years. That God is angry with you, that it’s really a miracle God puts up with you at all.
I’m truly sorry about that.
Or maybe you’ve heard the Guilt News of Jesus, that you have to do more and more and more, but if you do, maybe, just maybe, some day you’ll squeak by. You know, unless you screw up. Then you gotta start all over.
I’m sorry about that too.
And I’m sure you’ve heard the Shame News. It’s pretty popular. The Shame News says that you are disgusting. That you make God’s stomach turn. God could never love something like you.
Again, I’m sorry.
And I really don’t want to run on past this point too quickly. I mentioned before my son and daughter-in-law. Add in his sister, and that means I have three kids total that I love more than life itself. They’ve all made mistakes, and they will make more, because they’re people and that’s what people do. But I am so proud of the people they have become and are becoming, and I could not love them more. And that isn’t because I’m so great and they are so disgusting and I feel sorry for them. I love them because they are precious and because they are mine. And if you even tried talking about my kids the way the church talks about God’s kids? Man, I would fight you.
So hear the Good News: All those other Newses – the bad news, the guilt news, the shame news – those are lies. They are Fake News. The only Real News of Jesus Christ is GOOD NEWS. It always has been, and it always will be.
And the Good News is simply this: You are precious, just as you are. And you are loved, just as you are.
Also: You are in. Not because of a bargain you made, or magic words you said, or because you felt sufficiently terrible about what a complete piece of garbage you are. You are in, because you are family. And you are family because you are His. That’s what this ringing, this reverberating inside you has been trying to tell you.
No matter what you have done.
No matter what has been done to you.
The love and acceptance of Jesus, his healing and redemption and grace and all of it, it’s for you. Starting. Right. Now. No strings.
But wait! There’s more!
Because here’s the really cool part: While it is starting right now, by no means is it ending right now. No, this ringing inside of you goes on and on. It is expanding. You get to be part of something so much bigger than yourself. This frequency was never meant just for your own personal song. It’s everyone else’s frequency too. And you get to participate in spreading this vibration of love and compassion and peace and joy, far and wide, until the whole universe is singing.
Now, go forth and resonate.