The Ear of the Beholder

| Weekly Word

Some of you might know that I have a minor obsession with guitar effects pedals. For those of you who don’t know about pedals,  you can take an electric guitar and plug it straight into a guitar amplifier (with a speaker that makes it loud) OR, you can plug it the electric guitar into any number of effects pedals, first, and then plug it into an amplifier.  While you’re playing guitar with your hands, you hit the pedals with your feet and change the sounds of the guitar - from fuzzy, to distortion, to shimmery, raising the whole sound an octave or dropping it down two octaves with endless combinations of fun sounds.  Someone can spend anywhere from $25 in the pedal bargain bin all the way up to $6,000 on some rare boutique pedal to make their guitar sound really big and bold or soft and smooth or something otherworldly.  It’s kind of like painting with different sounds or using the pedals like you would use spices in food - to tailor the sound that you’re going for and get the sound just right.  When it get the sound just right and find “THE Tone” that I’m looking for, it blows me away.

There are whole groups of people (and I guess I’m one of them) who really geek out about guitar effects pedals and how the pedals inspire different sounds and levels of creativity in order to achieve “THE Tone” that blows our minds and gives us chills.  It can seem, though, like most guitar players are just one pedal away from “THE Tone."  The only problem is that to other people (who might not obsess about pedals as much as we do) might listen to one or there other and say, “Well, it just sounds like an electric guitar to me.”  It’s all in the ear of the beholder, I guess.

When it comes to our searching for God, I am tempted to search for “THE Tone” - some way of experiencing the Holy in my life that can be truly inspirational and life-changing - but it almost always seems out of reach, or right around the corner, or just one pedal or prayer away.  In her book, This Here Flesh, the author Cole Arthur Riley writes that this might not be the best way to experience the Holy in our ordinary, everyday lives:  “To encounter the holy in the ordinary is to find God in the liminal - in spaces where we might subconsciously exclude it, including the sensory moments that are often illegibly spiritual.”

In other words, God has a way of showing up in unexpected spaces and unexpected ways.  If we are open to awe and wonder, we might just find THE Holy in the beauty of everyday things.  As Riley writes:

Wonder includes the capacity to be in awe of humanity, even your own.  It allows us to jettison the dangerous belief that things worthy of wonder can only be located on nature hikes and scenic overlooks.  This can distract us from the beauty flowing through us daily.  For every second that our organs and bones sustain us is a miracle.  When those bones heal, when our wounds scab over, this is our call to marvel at our bodies - their regeneration, their stability or frailty.  This grows our sense of dignity.  To be able to marvel at the face of our neighbor with the same awe we have for the mountaintop, the sunlight refracting - this manner of vision is what will keep us from destroying each other.

Whether you are searching for wonder in your guitar pedals, or on a mountaintop, or in day-to-day interactions with  your neighbors, I hope and pray that you might see and hear the Holy and know that God is always nearer than we will often expect or know.

See you in church!

Grace and Peace,


Prepare for WorshipThis Week:  “None-Other (The Only Difference That Matters)”