We kicked off a new season of small groups at our church tonight. This is how we do church; the weekend services are great times of praise and worship, an opportunity to invite folks who are not necessarily interested in church to check it out in a safe environment. But real church – the nuts and bolts, wrestling, face-to-face interaction with the scriptures and our experiences and understanding of God – this happens all over the place, in weekly small groups. A few years ago we started a Wednesday night ‘large group/small group’; now, we have 60 to 80 people gather to sing a couple of songs around the piano before splitting into smaller groups of 8 to 10 for discussion. We’re working through Soul Detox, which looks to be relevant, applicable and full of truth. I’m excited for the next few weeks!
After small group, I had the opportunity to spend some time with one of my favorite people. I don’t see much of her unless she comes to small group – our church is large, and we don’t seem to be in the same place at the same time on the weekends. I was happy get a big hug; and then she said, “I think I need to talk about something….”
So we made time, right then and there. She shared a story, one full of some very real pain and hurt that she still carried. We talked about where it came from, and what happened, and why it mattered, and what she still struggled with. We moved toward the inevitable conclusion, and she pre-empted my advice before it even came out of my mouth.
“I’m not going to talk to him. I can’t tell him.”
We danced around her feelings a bit more, discussed the implications of what had happened to her, and what needs to happen next.
“You know, you have to tell him. I’m not going to tell him. You have to do this. Consider the alternatives….you have to tell him.”
It terrifies her.
/ / /
Earlier this week I spent time with a man who shared the hurt he was feeling about an important relationship in his life. We discussed circumstances and situations and feelings. He sincerely strives for a healthy relationship, but keeps running into brick walls. I listened, gave a little feedback, and then he said, “I really don’t know what to do.”
My response was a bit like a broken record.
“You have to tell him.”
/ / /
So the song that ran through my head all the way home was a simple phrase. “Tell Him”, originally recorded by The Exciters in the early 60’s, was the 10th track on one of my favorite albums of the early 80’s. I started listening to Linda Ronstadt when I got hold of her 1976 record, Hasten Down the Wind. I was a nut for that entire LA folk music scene – Joni Mitchell, The Eagles, Jackson Browne and the rest. I loved Ronstadt’s voice and, most especially, the lyrical pop ballads she sang. Karla Bonoff and Waddy Wachtel and Peter Asher and Kenny Edwards and David Lindley and Danny Kortchmar…I knew these names and the roles they played in her recordings. I loved Simple Dreams and Living In the USA. My affection started to wane with subsequent records that moved away from folk ballads and more towards the grainy punk stuff.
(Remember, I’m a girl who loved Barry Manilow in high school. That explains a lot…)
Ronstadt’s “Ooh, Baby Baby” was my choice to sing – along with my buddy Terri Hodges – in the SGPHS talent show one year. I played piano and sang the alto part while Terri handled the lead.
We rocked it, as I remember.
Technology is a beautiful thing; thanks to Spotify, I can re-listen to all these songs. The albums are in the attic somewhere, but these digital versions offer a quick glimpse into the past and immediate transport to another time and another place. These songs spark things long forgotten; I know I sang Ronstadt’s version of Jimmy Webb’s Easy For You to Say in some version of an early 80’s bar band, but I haven’t thought of that song in 30 years. I remember the opening chords of Alison (from Living In the USA) and the incredible crush I had on Shannon Hooks, who played and sang the Elvis Costello version in one of those 80’s college bar bands.
That era of Linda Ronstadt music provided a great soundtrack to my late adolescence. It’s funny, how little we probably know about the impact of lyrics upon our ethical and moral development. For someone wired like I am, I found profound truth in all of these songs. They were, as much as anything could be, foundational to my philosophy of life in my early 20’s.
It was never just a song.
Ironically, the impact of a phrase like“Tell Him” – as a title, rather than the full lyric – is powerful still today in my life. Revisiting these records tonight is like hearing old, familiar conversations; they are incredibly, surprisingly resonant. Much of what is woven in my soul is the harmony and melody and rhythm and the rhymes of these songs.
Oh, and I loved her sweater.