2:20 in the morning and my eyes blink at the clock repeatedly. Random thoughts of tomorrow’s responsibilities come and go, and I can’t seem to latch on to any of them. Perhaps it’s time to call it quits. It’s been a long, successful day, and the moment I woke up and smacked my alarm seems like last week. Not only did I score a winning broom ball goal, but I made an essay sing. There’s nothing like crawling into bed and knowing you’ve accomplished something during the day.
I close my eyes and the world falls away. The stuffy gym and the sweaty guy next to me and the fact that I really should have gone to the bathroom all disappear. The music echoes in my mind and the words form vivid images of soaring angels and a God bigger than the world yet He still holds me close. A guitar string broke, one of the singers lead with ‘Father’ instead of ‘Spirit’ and the sound of ripping Velcro to my right all tried to pull my heart from the moment. But as I sang the words in my scratchy, off-key voice I imagined a shield of grace coming down around me as I sang praises to my God. Worship isn’t about being comfortable and having the perfect atmosphere. It’s not about all the right songs at all the right tempos with just the right orchestration. It’s about where my heart is. It’s about glorifying God. Nothing else matters. My aching feet and the desire to sit down don’t matter. If it’s that big of a deal I can fall down on my knees. God deserves my attention now, not the subtle, nit-picky mistakes.
Holy, holy, holy
Lord God Almighty.
I’ve been toying with words all day, and now I’m supposed to sit down and say something profound? How ’bout goodnight?
A thousand questions and realities, ways of seeing the world, yet you are guided by just one. Not only are you narrow sighted, you push your one dimensional God on every generation. Why do you smother imagination, extinguish creativity, and exhaust my patience? All I can do is throw up my hands and leave it to a higher power. A higher power that you’ve categorized, idealized, and squeezed every last drop of life. What can you possibly have left to offer? Isn’t the world a bigger place? Don’t the horizons go into infinity, the stars innumerable. But you won’t have it. You cling to every letter, every word, no room for reason, no room for creativity, no room for dissent. You clip our wings before we can fall and learn to fly, you stunt our growth, stunt our faith, and make it impossible for us to ever soar with wings as eagles. Instead we will peck along the ground and you’ll see to it that we never wonder why.
I brought Leon peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I gave him an apple once. I’d get free samples from the corner venders, just to hand them over to Leon. One time I took him to McDonalds. I even thought about bringing him home with me for the weekend. Give him a hot shower, a bed to sleep in, a roof over his head. But I never had the chance.
Leon slept in an alley on a plastic bag. The bag doubled as his rain jacket. He took naps in Grant park and loved to lie in the grass and listen to the music from the summer festivals. A paralyzed leg kept him from going far. It would drag behind him when he walked, limp and lifeless like a sack of potatoes. He spent his days sitting on a ledge in the shade, outside the Panda Bear restaurant, within sight of the Art Institute of Chicago. Leon told me that when he was rich, he was going to buy that Art Institute and let homeless people sleep there.
A million magazines in a million hours with a million words for a million readers coming from a million writers and I am just one.
When I was a freshman in high school, the yo-yo became my salvation. It wasn’t until the second semester that I finally brought the toy to school, but the day I did I became a new person.
I spent the first semester quiet, reserved, scared. I ate lunch with two guys I wasn’t very good friends with. They listened to Metallica, stayed up watching late night HBO and were about as popular as I was, which was the only reason I sat with them. They would take my hat during lunch—in itself a traumatizing moment—and mock me with it. Once they spit a jolly rancher in my hat, leaving a purple stain across the white mesh.
In the deepest corner of my underwear drawer, behind the ratty pair your mother tells you to throw away–the laundry day reserve–is a tiny speckled black box. Inside the box is a smaller, black, treasure chest-shaped case that opens like a clam, revealing the pearl of an engagement ring.
It’s a small ring, size 4–it doesn’t even fit on my pinky, with a pebble sized diamond in the middle and smaller diamonds on the side. It was cast in 14 karat white gold, accented with bits of yellow gold. It wasn’t a two month’s salary ring. With my salary it’d be closer to a ten month’s salary ring. But that’s my salary.
A thousand voices echo through the hall, rising and falling in a crescendo of worship. Hands are lifted high in praise, voices strain and tears fall. A powerful wave of emotion sweeps through your body as you catch the tiniest glimpse of the meaning of the words you’re singing.
Worship. It isn’t about the right setting, the right song, or the right instrumentation. It’s about forgetting yourself. Forgetting your wants, desires, needs; and focusing on God. It doesn’t matter if the lighting isn’t right. It doesn’t matter if you’d rather sit than stand. It doesn’t matter if the drummer is off beat or the guitars aren’t right. It doesn’t matter if the songs are too slow or too fast. It doesn’t matter if you sing like a hyena. It’s not a concert. It’s praise to God. If you’re worried about everything pleasing you, how can you possibly be pleasing God?
Sometimes I feel like I need all the answers. I have to have everything settled in my mind before I can act. Otherwise I’ll be stepping forward unsure of myself. Questions, doubts, and fears will reign. But I don’t think that’s always true. If that’s the case then I’ll be waiting forever. I’m beginning to realize that part of life is dealing with those questions, doubts and fears, coming to grips with them, struggling with them. Not simply holding back and trying to answer them. But flying in their face and finding out what the answer is. To do otherwise would be to not really live. There is a time to wait; a time to question, a time to doubt and a time to fear. There is also a time to act. A time to answer. A time to be sure. And a time to be brave. Sometimes life is a risk, and if you’re not willing to risk, then you’re not willing to live.