Sounds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I miss the sound of The Tongan Congregation of Kahuku United Methodist Church. Once a week, you could hear them practicing and their voices would carry on the wind to our front yard. Once a month, we would have combined services for communion and although I could never understand what they were saying, I could feel it. It was powerful and so full of conviction. I have not heard them for a very long time and I miss it. I left the Methodist Church soon after my grandmother passed away and so did my family. I didn’t belong to a place of Worship for over a decade. Though my parents and siblings found new congregations, I chose to attend the church of myself. It’s common for most individuals to spend some part of their life, living for themselves. I know I am not the only one. My church was a bar, a night club, a social event, my apartment, any place that made me feel good. I worshipped different spirits. I spent a good amount of time paying my respects to Vodka, Midori, sometimes Rum, Crown, Wine, Hypnotiq, Bud Light – well, I guess I worshipped many idols. It all depended on how I felt at the time, clear liquor was more calming and brown liquor brought out some aggression. I did cut back on brown liquor though. In church we would break the bread in remembrance of Christ but in the church of self, I broke open my body for the indulgence of the flesh and drank from the cup of pleasure. It was fun, I am not going to lie.

 

I made a different sound during this time of my life. It was loud and upbeat, it served its purpose of attracting others along for the ride. It was great, but it wasn’t meant for me, forever. You can only last so long, making a loud sound, before you lose your breath and start to fall apart. In the church of self, there is only one person trying to do it all. It is incredibly tiring, but I didn’t want anyone’s help, I was independent, I was living life on my terms, I was free from the constraints of religion and I was living my truth. As an individual it was important that my sound was heard above everything else, I was entitled to it. Anything else, would be discrimination. My individual sound was more important than yours. Yet, it wasn’t sustainable. I see people I knew when I was living the way I did, and some are still in it. I have no room to judge them, but I can see the exhaustion in their face, on their hands and deep within their eyes. The embrace of addiction, lust, pride and selfishness creates a false sense of security that all is well, that you are maintaining your sound but in fact, it’s killing you. We were not made to worship in the church of self, to live as a one-man or one-woman congregation. We may fill our lives with other people but still we stand alone because our sound, we want our sound to be heard above anything else. I have been there. My offense led me there, but my pride set roots in it. It is like being a tree in the desert, trying to survive every day and hoping to attract people in search of water but being unable to provide a drop of it when they arrive. We are not meant to live that way. We were created to thrive, to love and encourage others to thrive with us. We can’t give what we don’t have, because it’s tied up in proving who we are.

I couldn’t do it any more, I had no sound left but I tried to fight it. I tried to maintain my place in the desert because although it didn’t look good, it felt good. We thrive on feelings. I found myself in my mid 30’s moving back home with my parents and it felt like I was mourning. I had this deep sense of loss because I thought I failed and I was ashamed. I was humbled. Then I heard a sound and it echoed through the empty recesses of my wounded spirit. It flowed harmoniously through this half empty Public School cafeteria and it started to revive my true sound, the sound I was created to make. It came from a mother and her three children, each individually packaged but collaboratively executed. The very first day I walked into that church, I didn’t know what to expect. I went because my family did and if I was going to live here, I needed to participate. Funny how things happen. On my second visit, I almost didn’t make it. I was out late the night before worshipping other spirits at a small bar in Kaneohe. Everyone had left, and I had two choices to make. Continue to sit there in my hangover or get up, get ready and walk. I did the latter and there was this weird feeling, an otherworldly presence walking me to church that morning. It felt like my grandmother, we had walked these dusty roads many times together growing up.  It was comfortable. That was the day, the sound made a way in me and I found my place of worship. Towards the end of her set, I struggled standing with my arms wide open and as their melodies flowed over me something overwhelmed me and took me down.  I started to find my real sound again. I lived a life like a tree in the desert for so long and now there was a feeling of “foundness”. I was found, but it wasn’t by people it was like flowing waters of life met me where I was, as I was and began to produce life again. I was no longer on my own, I was found, I was a part of something greater. My natural sound started to become super natural.

 

Creatures great and small find their sound according to nature and the roles they fulfill. Whales can send low frequencies that travel far across the open ocean and birds can change their sounds according to the season. As a human being, we also find our sound according to our nature- the sin nature. It sounds so evil, but we are shaped by the choices we make, in fact, we are also shaped by the choices our fathers made, our mothers, our neighbors, someone in another country, another time, another fruit. Everything we experience continues to mold the brass, or add the strings, enlarge the valves or hollow out the drum, creating our own sound. But we cannot maintain our sound on our own. We need direction, we need composure, we need breaks and we need collaboration. We were not created to serve in the church of self as a lone instrument. We are called to a great body, a great orchestra. We are called to harmonies, crescendos, tempos and rhythms that work in conjunction with the sound of others in unity.

 

The church is not a place, it is not a building- it is a living organism of varying sounds. It was the sounds I heard in my place of worship that reactivated a desire to work in harmony, as an ecosystem, an orchestra of divinely crafted instruments. See, the woman who leads our worship team and her children do not hoard their sound for the sake of self. They boldly share and give of it with the invitation of participation by those who hear it, so together, we can create a great movement of sound. A vibration that calls heaven down. We develop our sound over time and it is shaped by the struggle that an atmosphere of sin creates. We will stand alone in that sound, no matter how hard we try to mask it. We will feel good but bare no fruit. My sound was shaped by my struggles, by my choices, the choices of humanity, culture and societal pressures. But my sound was remade, it was recreated, it was made sustainable. My sound went from one that operated in the self, to one that operated in unity with others as one body. One orchestra.

I got to know my worship leader very well in the past year and a half. She was so close to shutting down many times before I stepped into that public school cafeteria, but she knew her sound. It makes an impact to this day not because of her talents but because of the struggle that shaped it and the God that refined it. If she gave in to rejection. If she gave in to fear. If she gave into self-consciousness. If she kept it for herself. If she gave into the opinions of others I would have never heard the sound I needed to hear that day. The sound that was shaped by this world, sanctified by a father and shared with an open invitation so that I could live again. But she held her position in the orchestra, the body of Christ, that is made of many colors, many languages, many denominations and many varying instruments. We are all called to bring a different sound to this world, not one person has the same. We can choose to let it serve ourselves and be cut off. It might be a painful sound, a mournful sound, an upbeat, fast paced sound, even a joyful sound but the moment we surrender ourselves to the one who made the ultimate sound, the sound that penetrates the ages, it becomes something new. It no longer works alone, of its own accord. It was created out of sin but it was refined by the fire for a purpose that glorifies the Grand Conductor. You were created to work in harmony, to establish a kingdom in a world of individuality. Play your part, no matter how small or great for each is grand in the eyes of God and serves a combined purpose. Only through Jesus, by a sound of surrender, can the nature of sin which shaped all our lives be overcome and made anew. May the sound I make, according to the role I play set a tone in you of everlasting change.

Message In a Bottle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buried gold exists, if we can find the X. Or so I thought, as I went along the tide lines left high upon the shore. I dreamt of far off places and deserted islands. I checked every glass bottle for a letter just in case someone was lost. Green sea glass was in fact emeralds and if I caught fish with my net I could take them home and put them in fresh water.

“Salt water fish will die in fresh water,” some adult told me. They were right. Its not that I was a disobedient child, but I was very curious and always hopeful. Always hopeful until, you know? The abomination washed up on shore. I had nightmares in my youth that wasn’t about something I saw, but rather something I felt. It was this sinking feeling of hopelessness, that no matter what I did, I would be overcome. I’d wake in a cold sweat, my throat constricted and pulse racing.  That’s how the abomination made me feel whenever someone noticed it.

I didn’t name it, that big dark mass of I-don’t-even-know. It was named by a preacher man. He wasn’t talking to me, but he was talking about people who were like me. I understood that there were boys who acted like girls and they were Mahu. The way they lived on the outside was how I was living on the inside. I needed to keep it that way. I had no one else to tell me otherwise. There was no Rupaul’s Drag Race, Glee or other Gay “coming of age” shows. If God said it’s an abomination, then it is. That was when hope left my body.  It was like a candle blown out and with it went joy, hope, creativity and child-like wander. Everything from that point on was a show. I could recognize other empty vessels, glazed over eyes, and human facades ever since. Takes one to know one.

There I was at the shoreline, a now empty vessel in full bloom. The friendships of my childhood grew distant because it was clear that we were different. I wasn’t one of the boys and I wasn’t one of the girls either. The very friend I thought would understand my struggle, the one I KNEW could relate, didn’t know me anymore. Over the course of one summer, from elementary to intermediate, I lost so much. I tried to pretend as much as possible but as much as I tried to distance myself from the great mass, the more it grew. Like a sand ball, the more I pushed into it, the bigger it got. I now, was on a deserted island and completely alone.

I wasn’t ready to let anyone on the shoreline, I didn’t want them to see everything, like how big the abomination was. Having made it to the beach, I sat and released. The sand was used to salty tears by this time. A whisper in the wind landed on my ears and I saw my cousin. A cousin, whom I really wasn’t that close with. She was six years older than me and our relationship was okay. She was my cousin and that was it. I chased her with a broom once because she was a hormonal teenager and sometimes really mean. But she was a mother now and I, I was slowly dying. A whole bottle of pain pills was my plan, it didn’t seem so painful. It wasn’t a matter of how, but when. I knew why I saw her in my mind and I knew I had to talk to her. I wrote a letter and I put it in her purse during a visit.

I got a letter back.

That was the moment my cousin, became a pillar. I never thought my cousin was very book smart, she was pretty, she had nice things and street smarts. But that was one of the most eloquent and impactful messages I have ever read. I read it in private and felt a knot unravel. Her signature marked the spot and I found a treasure that continues to add value to my life every day. We didn’t talk about it face to face for a few years but finally someone knew, and they still loved me. She was going to be there whenever I was ready to bring her to my shoreline. I wasn’t alone in my secret.

The abomination, though it still stood, began to unravel just a bit. I could face it a little easier because help was just a phone call away when I was ready. Coming to terms with who I was, led to serious mental health issues and deep depression. When you are in it deep, it can seem impossible to get out. This was my first step and the nightly panic attacks started to wane shortly after. Like I said before, we are never alone. If it wasn’t for that whisper at the beach, the churning in my stomach that said “THIS, DO THIS!”. I don’t know where I would have been or what I would have done. If love didn’t meet me where I was, as I was. If a cousin didn’t become an angel in a moment of despair, a message of hope and a life vest.

The Holy Spirit is called the comforter, an intercessor and an advocate to name a few. He was the other presence, always there with me whether I believed Him or not.

If you are in the depths of an internal struggle. Let someone know. I pray that the great comforter, the spirit of God, also comfort and guide you. I pray that He sends the right people into your life at the right time.

 We can’t unravel somethings on our own. My email is listed if you need to talk.

 

suicide