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Static


BillM
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Back when I was growing up, my parents liked only two kinds of music – Country…and Western. While my friends at school were enjoying music from Linda Ronstadt, America, Chicago, and Boston, I was relegated to listening to Hank Williams Sr., Patsy Cline, Lefty Frizzell, and Loretta Lynn. So I was elated when, for my 12th birthday, I received a GE transistor radio. I could finally listen to the kind of music that I wanted to listen to…as long as I wore the single, little earplug that made all the music sound like it came from inside a tin can. But, it was still freeing to explore my own musical tastes.

 

The problem was, we lived out in the boonies, in the back-wood sticks of upstate New York. I found it extremely difficult to find a rock or pop station near us that was static-free. The hills were too hilly. My antenna, the cord to the earplug, was not long enough. And if I did find a station that was relatively static-free, if I moved in the slightest, I would lose the signal. To this day, I probably don’t know all the words to my favorite rock songs because of all the static and interference that I had to deal with in trying to listen to my music. Then again, I don’t think I could discern all the words in a Bob Dylan song if he was three feet from me, singing straight to me. But I had such a love for music that I learned to listen closely, blocking out as much static as I could. As a result, I taught myself to play guitar, piano, and accordion in my teens. Few things lift me up quite like music does, so I guess I’m sort of an audiophile in wanting my music as static and distortion-free as possible.

 

If only life itself came with a static filter. I’ve heard it often enough and clear enough to know that life makes a beautiful music all its own. But, in my experiences, the music of life can sometimes be filled with so much static, noise, and distortion that I just want to turn it all off. Do you know what I mean? Or it’s like one of my father’s old 8-track tapes where two tracks (songs) play at the same time. It used to drive me crazy.

 

Perhaps it is because I am a fairly simple person and can’t really think about or process information on a higher or multi-tasking level, but I find that times of too much static make me want to withdraw. It’s like sensory overload for me. For whatever reason, I like things pure and simple, even though I know cognitively that life isn’t really that way. But when relationships and situations get too “static-y” for me, I have to get away.

 

It’s this way in my religious journey also. For me, the pure music of Jesus’ gospel is that we experience God’s love for us, love him in return, and be like him in loving others. Though there are many overtones and harmonies found in this simple melody, I still enjoy listening to it and singing it to the best of my abilities to others. But, for me, religion, the Church, and the Bible often add a lot of static and distortion to the music. And, just being honest, I haven’t developed a filter to block it all out yet. My natural instinct is to withdraw, to turn it all off or to look for a clearer station for a while.

 

Of course, my own life is no symphony either. I’m sure I generate a fair amount of static and distortion for others. But I want to do better. How? I’m not sure yet, but, going back to my memories of my transistor radio, maybe my heart is something like the tuner in that little box. If I can tune my heart to the life-giving frequency and music of the Spirit, maybe my life can be a little more static-free. And maybe if I make it a practice to tune to that station more often, I can tolerate a little more static in other areas of my life. I’m pretty sure some static and distortion is inescapable, but I also think that there is “heavenly music” in our hearts that is always there, if only we can tune to it. Ears to hear, as Jesus said. Not physical ears, of course, but ears of the heart. Ears that allow us to hear the music of the Spirit and of life centered in compassion, music that relegates the static to simply what it is…static.

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  • 1 year later...

I know this is a very old post, but i am relatively new to this site and just read this today. Your music and tuning analogy resonates with me, particularly when you wrote "Too much static makes me withdraw."

 

I too believe in experiencing God's love, love him in return, and be like him in loving others. And I am also struggling with finding a way to filter the parts of Christian worship that don't work for me. On my own, in my day to day life and work, I feel very much connected to and in relationship with God. I share the qualities of my "God relationship" with others and reflect on how to embody love, compassion, understanding and tolerance when i am faced with difficult decisions or interactions with others.

 

I have not been part of an organized Christian congregation since I stopped going to Catholic mass in my late teens. Now in my late 40s, I have started considering what it might be like go be part of a regular Christian fellowship again. I took myself to a Christian worship service this morning and it was a surreal experience for me. Familiar, yet foreign. I felt some of the old "black and white" judgment and have a hard time with the aspects of worship that sound to me like I'm being told I am a thoughtless sinner. However I did enjoy aspects of the young minister's sermon about "thirst" (the scripture reading was John 19:16-18, 28-29). I also felt moved during the ritual prayer of thanks and sharing of communion.

 

I'm still processing how or if I will or need to be part of a congregation. Reading your post today about how to filter or not feel the need to tune out/withdraw is giving me an interesting way to reflect on my experience and ongoing investigation of how I might be able to be part of a Christian fellowship again.

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great post, i missed it 1st time around, and pity it didnt get more attention at the time.

 

I have this exact same feeling of being put off any kind of christian 'practice' (church, reading the bible etc) because of the static, the bits that just don't work for me.

 

There are great things that a church can offer, but like you, Divinejoy, the bits that put me off keep me at a distance, and i dont feel like getting too involved. It would be great to find a church with like minds but these seem thin on the ground, with traditional christianity still seeming to be the order of the day.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Divinejoy,

 

Thanks for the pushback on my post. Like you, I feel very connected to God "on my own." I suppose this might be the contemplative side of me. I am most "at home" when it is just "me and God." But I also know that God calls us to community, that Christianity is not a "solo sport." We need each other. And God grows us through the externals as much as through the internal. But the externals sometimes make me feel like I'm in a relationship with a porcupine. :D Trying to follow Jesus neccesitates that we be vulnerable, to carry our cross, to be open to pain. And I've found in my life that it is often in the "dark night of the soul" when God's presence somehow makes itself the most known. Still, as you've said, it is not easy to filter out what "works" and what doesn't for us. I doubt there is a magic bullet for this as there is so much "stuff" to filter through, plus we are all unique creations of God with different needs. For me, though, there are 4 criteria that I've found helpful where I am. The first is the Law of Love. Can I find love and compassion in what I'm involved in? And is there opportunity to show it? The second is reasonableness. Does this make some sort of sense? Is it rational? The third is conscience. Does this violate my sense of what is right or moral? And the fourth is what I might call life-enhancing. Is what I'm involved in supportive of life - my own, that of others, that of our planet?

 

Again, these are not magic bullets. But I do find in my own life that they help me with what I need for myself while, at the same time, calling me to go beyond myself. And I remember that Jesus seemed to be well-off when praying to his Father alone. It was going public that got him crucified. But he believed in Someone and something bigger than himself. And that may be what it really takes.

 

Blessings,

Bill

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Jonny,

 

For whatever it's worth, I think that it is spiritually and psychologically healthy to have what I might call a "cherry-picker" attitude. There is this, IMO, myth out there that I call the "Whole Enchilada" approach. It says that if we can't believe everything the church does or teaches, we can't believe any of it. Or if we don't believe everything in the Bible, we can't believe any of it. Or if we don't believe everything found in Christianity, then we must not be Christians. Who says that we must take the "Whole Enchilada" approach? We don't do that is other parts of our lives, do we? We try to use discernment, good judgment, separating the chaff from the wheat, or, as the apostle Paul put it, "Test all things. Hold to what is good." I call this "cherry-picking" and I think it is the healthiest way for us to come at things. It is like eating watermelon. Eat up the good fruit and spit the seeds out. ;)

 

Traditional Christianity does still seeming to be the order of the day, but things are changing, things are, hopefully, progressing. But in this age of information, there are plenty of places to find what we need other than the church on the corner. This doesn't mean we should rule them out, for Jesus calls us to love them all. But they shouldn't control us. That, my friend, is the Spirit's job. :)

 

Blessings,

Bill

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