I never listen to radio preaching. It’s the worst. But yesterday, I accidentally heard a sermon on my morning drive. It was beautiful, it was heart-wrenching, and it stuck with me all day.
The best part is that, I hadn’t accidentally switched over to K-Love or anything. I was listening to my usual: the local alt-rock station. For the most part, this station and its hosts lean liberal; speak fluent profanity; until recently, called their morning show “Big Fat Morning Buzz;” and their new tagline is “Kansas City As F***.”
In other words, these are my people. But I still didn’t expect them to take me to church.
Danny, the morning host, started talking about his grandma…you know what? Before I tell you the rest, get tissues. Fair warning.
It’s been an emotional time on the show lately anyway, as the station didn’t renew the contract of Danny’s former co-host. So maybe it was for more than one reason that Danny’s voice broke as he started talking about his grandma, who’d recently been placed on hospice care.
First he talked about how he’d moved back to Kansas City to take care of her after his grandfather died. How he got a job at Starbucks, and how she would wait up for him at night–standing in the window in her curlers and shower cap– saying “I can’t go to sleep, until you’re home.”
He then talked about what a strong Christian woman she was… how much she’d lived through in her 96 years, a true prayer warrior whose faith had taken her all over the world. And THEN, he got to the confessional:
“When I first got this job at the station,” he said, “Grandma asked me: do they play Christian music? And I lied. ‘Yes, Grandma,’ I said, ‘they play Christian music.’ I didn’t want her to feel bad about my life choices!” And then she said: can you play me a song?
And he did. Y’all, he played her Chapstick and Chapped Lips, by Relient K.
Bottom line: she didn’t love it (who does?) but she said “well, if you play it, it’s good.” (No it’s not, grandma! It’s ok to hate it!)
Of course, he never actually played Relient K on “Kansas City’s Alternative.” But yesterday, he did. In honor of his grandma on her deathbed: the Kansas City AF station, just this once, blasted some angsty, early millennial Christian rock. And in a way that “Christian rock” almost never can be in real life–it was beautiful.
Listen to the whole segment here. Shew.
That story stayed with me all day.
It stayed with me as the news started spinning: that Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to 8 counts of campaign finance violations “and other charges;” and the news that Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, was convicted on Tuesday on 8 counts of financial fraud.
Danny’s grandma stayed with me as I Tweeted and Facebooked and made notes for Sunday. As I started blog posts and ranted to friends via text message. As my husband and I got home from work at the same time (which is rare) and I yelled “I’ll make popcorn, you turn on CNN!” and we gleefully watched the consequences roll down like waters.
Danny’s grandma–and the unlikely gospel of terrible Christian music on a totally secular, mostly profane radio show–stayed with me as I went to a meeting at my kids’ school. As I poured a bourbon to come down for a minute between the political drama and the drama-that-is-4th-grade-math-homework.
And this story, clearly, is still with me today. Because it is just that good and important.
Because of the nature of my work, and the urgency of writing and preaching in the moment, maybe I’m more vulnerable than most to the power of the zeitgeist. It gets to all of us, from time to time: the constant pull of scandal, of daily fresh outrage, of the ugliness lurking beneath all of our systems and structures; or, as it is right now, the ugliness revealed in plain sight. The news–this news especially–is important. In such times as these, it is critical that we stay engaged and informed.
But. The weight of that newsfeed, and the sheer volume of sound and fury that comes at us in a day… it can be exhausting. Spiritually draining. It can suck the life right out of you, if you let it.
Yesterday, I didn’t let it. Instead, I let Danny and his grandma remind me that even in the midst of chaos, outrage, and anxiety about an uncertain future–life and love and loveliness go on.
Even today–right this minute–babies are being born. Even now, people are waking up to the first hint of fall in the air; people are walking on nature trails, and working for good. People are driving cars and writing words. People put their hands in dirt, and put one foot in front of the other. People are having sex and making dinner, doing math homework and getting the mail, folding laundry and
holding the hands of loved ones who are trying to cross over. Trying to leave this life and all of its mess and loveliness, and see what’s waiting on the other side.
Maybe I’m preaching to the choir here, but maybe I’m mostly preaching to myself: we are, all of us, more than the chaos of the newsfeed. We are whole lives long, and we are a world together. Stay present. Be in this with your people. Don’t miss the sunshine, or the multiplication tables,
or the really great story you were never expecting to hear on the radio.
Go in peace, Danny’s Grandma. Wherever you are.