We Were Made to Worship

I have started a new blog. it is on the production of a church service–mostly focused on the visual media aspect. Join me there too!

If visual media is not your thing–worry not! I wrote an introductory entry on the importance of worship. We all could use a reminder now and then 🙂

Church Visual Media

“ You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist and were created.” –Revelation 4:11

Someone once said that we were all made with the inherent desire to worship.

We can worship ourselves. We can worship money, sex, power, fame–all of them gold and silver idols of our own making–or we can worship God.

If we choose to worship Self or any of those little man-made idols, then we are curved within ourselves. We may develop physically or mentally, but are–in a sense–emotionally and spiritually stunted. We are incomplete. Letting God take the throne of our lives is more for our sake than His because in him we find fulfillment. Worshiping the one whom we were originally intended to worship lets us achieve spiritual clarity and our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual selves grow and develop…

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Cleaning up after a meal

Mara

We decided to forgo the weekly potluck and came home immediately after the service. We had a quiet lunch, Mara and I, of vegetable soup and quesadillas, while listening to a guitar concerto in the radio.

As we ate I marveled at my silliness. It hadn’t been as scary as I’d thought; in fact, I had almost enjoyed it. And though my mind had drifted off for long spaces of time during the service, my musings for the most part hadn’t been morbid. The people I’d known before hadn’t chewed me out, either. The biggest surprise, however, was that Mara and I hadn’t killed each other on the drive there and back home. There was a subtle change between us, and I did not know how it had happened. It was just very odd to discover that though neither one volunteered to begin or carry any form of conversation, the air was not tense as it was wont to do whenever my scatter-brained older brother was not around to liven things up.

“Do you want to go back for the afternoon service?” Mara asked as we cleaned up. “Some Gospel singers from out of state are coming to sing.”

I shook my head, “I’ve had enough for today, I think.”

Mara scraped something from the kitchen stove, “Well, I suppose it would be too much to ask.”

I regarded her warily from the sink where I was drying the dishes. Was she trying to start a fight? “What’s that supposed to mean?”

She frowned, “It’s not supposed to mean anything. Calm down, Tanya!”

“Don’t tell me to calm down! It’s not like I’m angry or anything.” The dishes clattered loudly as I stacked them in place as if belying my assertions, “You always think the worst of me,” I muttered.

“Don’t give me that.” Mara threw her cleaning rag on the sink and proceeded to wash it clean, “You are the one who suddenly wanted to go to church, so I took you with me. You didn’t want to stay for potluck, I brought you home. I am way past forcing you to go to church. I was simply offering to take you. Do I get a ‘Thanks’? No. Do I expect it at this point? Not really. Just don’t shoot my head off for trying to be civil.”

Her words stuck me. I didn’t exactly agree with her sentiments—she somehow always managed to verbally outmaneuver me—but the revelation that she wasn’t entirely trying to antagonize me left me speechless for a time.

“I’m sorry,” I said after a while. My tone was subdued from the effort of getting down a huge slice of humble pie, “I didn’t know—I thought…” I sighed, “If you are going I’ll join you. I can drive if you want.”

Mara wrung her now clean rag and hung it up to dry. “I wanted to hear the concert, but I had originally thought to spend the day up there. Going back in the rain and then finding a place to park would be an absolute nightmare. Anyway. I thought I’d go see Alma. She’s not doing so well after her surgery.”

“Ok.” I said, as if I had an idea who Alma was.

“You going out today?”

“Pfft! I never go out.”

She looked surprised, and I wondered what it was she thought I did on Saturdays when she was out the whole day. For the sake of our new-found truce I didn’t volunteer any information.

“I think I’m going to do some homework. Or study. I have some big exams coming up.”

“It’s the Sabbath.”

“I’ll take a nap then.”

“Ok. I’ll be back in the evening.”

“Take care.”

Fifteen minutes later Mara left, and I remained at home to listen to the rain.

 

Part 21 – If You Only Knew

church. photo by Floyd B. Bariscale

Return to Hilltop Church

I remembered Mara’s Hilltop church in all its faded glory.

The imposing gray Romanesque façade rising above the busy, dirty street—the broad, shallow steps leading up to the impressive portico and a trio of wooden doors —the pigeons flying out of the unused bell tower—the terraced grounds bordered on all sides by wrought-iron fencing—it was familiar and alien to me at the same time. I wondered at Mara—would she not have liked to attend a smaller church—maybe like Zuri’s? I could not account for why she chose to drive all the way to the inner city to Hilltop church full of people and a sea of faces, when there were smaller churches—of her denomination too—much closer to home. But I figured Mara’s subconscious thing for cathedral-like places of worship was a remnant of her shameful Catholic past.

It was raining and crowded in the portico, so I could not wait for Tony outside, and as Mara and I shared an umbrella, I had no choice but to follow her up the steps and into the church.

There were greeters at the door and at the lobby. They were the deaconesses. They wore name badges on their sober navy-blue suit ensemble. All of them wore flat shoes, flesh-toned nylons, and the hem of their pencil skirts fell below the knee. They greeted me warmly and handed me a church bulletin.

I’d not been shot down—yet.

Despite myself, I glanced around me curiously, stealing glances at people’s faces seeking out any familiar features while I waited around for Mara to finish speaking with this or that church sister. Once she was done, she looked at me, and I could see she was surprised that I was still sticking around, “Where is your friend?”

I had not seen him, “I don’t know. Maybe he is running late.”

“Sabbath school is about to start.”

“Can I wait for him here? I’ll join you once he gets here.”

“Don’t you want to go with the young people?”

I bristled at the thought, “Do I have to?”

“No. But there’s only older people where I’m at.”

“I don’t mind,” I shrugged, thinking back to the Monday night study group—they were all old.

“As you wish, then. Fifth pew from the front, left side.” Mara said, as if I could forget the spot we’d sat at for years. There we’d sat when, decked in our best, we had first come to this church–back then father had been holding my hand as well as Mara’s. There we endured the pity and inquisitiveness of our brethren some years later when Mara and I came in by ourselves with scandal trailing behind us. There I’d writhed and suffered agonies pretending that life was OK and growing increasingly angry at seeing Mara’s enormous efforts to keep up the act. All this, and Mara still wanted to know why I had left the church? I shook my head, and tried to clear my mind of things from the past. I was trying to give myself a second chance. I had to let things go…right?

So we parted; Mara went in through the doors to the sanctuary and I went to the far left, to a little hidden bench next to a fake palm tree where I could see the people who stepped in through the main door. I sat and I waited and waited for Tony to arrive.

But he didn’t come.

 

Part 20 – If You Only Knew

Samson

Until the Next Turn

This is my life, for now.

Round and round I go, treading the worn prison floor in the stifling heat and in my own incessant darkness. No use trying to break the bonds that now hold me—I know because I tried. The fetters that in the old life I would have easily gotten rid of are now impossible to break. And even if I could—where would I go? How would I make my way out of this prison, guarded and blinded as I am?

No. Better now to continue going round and round and grind at the mill. I can still hear, and I hear there is something in the air, some great event, and I am involved in their schemes. So for now, I will wait.

I will wait for the next turn of life. It will come quickly and unexpectedly, just as it came when I was undefeated and caught up in the bliss and the fever of love (or so I thought, dolt that I was)—just as my strength, my eyes, and my dignity were taken from me in a quick turn, so will this come to an end.

It’s not a blind hope. I believe it because I know one defeat does not mean the end. I believe it because in the depths of my despair, in the abject humiliation and the shame of my situation, I remembered the God of my parents—the God I serve. I remembered how he will use even a broken instrument for his purpose the way one could use an old donkey jaw to strike down a thousand men, and he’s not through with me. So I wait for him.

Hark! I hear someone coming. They’re coming for me.

* * *

The crowds roar when I appear in front of them. There must be thousands here at the temple of Dagon, and they’ve all come because of me. To complete their victory and my own degradation they have me entertain them. No need to do much—they are content to see me naked, shackled, filthy, blinded, and helpless without a guiding hand.

At last I rest between the pillars which support the building. The cacophony of their shouts and calls, their jeers, the dozens of trumpets, flutes, drums and cymbals, the sound of all the madness and debauchery, and the stamping of dancing feet make the ground shake under my bare feet.

My turn is coming.

So while they jeer, curse, shout, and taunt me, I pray one last time to the God who watches over me.

O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once….

It should have been different, it should not have ended this way. I had been set apart since birth, a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. I should have had a long life and many children. If only… if only… and yet I am not allowed to fall into despair. My prayer is heard, my strength is returned to me. My turn has come at last—my last chance for redemption.

So let me fulfill my destiny—even if it means that I will perish with the foe. Let me die with these thousands, and accomplish more through death than I ever did while living.