I donít understand what the people in my church call worship.
I do understand praise. Praise is music that comes alive, grabbing at my feet and setting them to dancing. Itís rhythmic hand-clapping and balloons expanding in my chest to float me heavenward. Itís flowers and trees and stars and moons and planets, all joining me to rejoice in our one Creator. It is the life we share in Him.
Then everything dies.
The joy-explosion they call praise flattens out to droning monotone.
They call it worship.
Iím left still standing, but I wonder why. Cramps shoot up my calves and an itch claws at my left shoulder. Iím listing dizzily, longing to drop down upon my chair and fall asleep. But the aging man right front of me, his stooped back jutting chicken wings and his pink scalp gleaming through silver hair-feathers, remains balanced on his feet. Guilt suffuses me, so I stay standing too. Swaying. Scratching. Almost snoozing.
I jerk myself awake, then gaze in mind-numb fascination at the worship team up front. Billís face appears to be contorted in a grimace; he clenches fists and bobs his head forward, back, forward in a pattern that inspires me to lend him the nickname ďChicken Man.Ē Next to him, Gloria swings her head from side to side, her eyes closed and tears rolling down her plump rouged cheeks. Steveís head is tilted back, his palms cupped and raised as though to receive rain from the ceiling. None falls. He remains motionless, frozen in statue-like supplication.
ďBe to our God forever and ever . . .Ē
As the words of the first worship song drift into my consciouness, I struggle to suppress a giggle. My husband sang that one this morning in the shower. Only he didnít stop with ďB.Ē Twisting off the faucet, reaching for his towel: C to our God, forever and ever . . .
What are you singing, Ian?
D to our God . . .
By the time he was fully clad in jeans and un-holed T-shirt, heíd made it all the way past ďZ.Ē Remembering, my giggle escapes through puckered lips. I bite down hard to regain a poker-face, properly somber and worshipful. But my brain has skipped ahead to other bizarre lyrics, snagged by my ears from songs on contemporary Christian radio.
Jesus is the needle. . . . Dance, Judy, dance. . . . Thanks for the money, Iím free at last. . . . And Heís throwing my bread away. . . .
I bite my lips again, reminding myself sternly that Iíve managed over time to decipher most of these strange lyrics. Itís Jesus in the middle and Dance, children, dance and Thanks, God Almighty. But the song about bread, crooned in the tear-choked tones of someone whoís been plucked from peril and transplanted into Paradise, still leaves me stumped. Baffled as I now feel while gazing up front at the Chicken Manís fervent bobble-head, the stray mascara striping Gloriaís damp cheeks, the light washing over Steveís frozen statue-face as he still waits for rain that never plops into his palms.
What are they feeling? What am I missing?
And Heís throwing my bread away. . . .
What is that crazy-sounding song really saying?
I suppress another giggle, picturing my daughter tossing breadcrusts to the pigeons waddling round Union Station. Jabbing for the crusts, their heads jerk in the same rhythms employed by the Chicken Man up front. Black stripes trail below their eyes, resembling Gloriaís mascara. The birds snatch the crusts from Emilyís cupped palms, which she holds motionless like Steveís.
The pigeons trust Emily to feed them.
She freely casts her bread away.
Cast your bread upon the waters. . . .
Now where did that come from? Itís a Bible verse, isnít it? I donít know references, but whatever its source I know the words are meant for me. My Lord is calling me to release my cramps, my itching, my giggling and boredom and confusion up to Him. He made me as He made me; I am wired more for praise than for worship. But He loves me anyway, reaching for my hand through the tangles in my brain. I let them fall like mangled crusts and grab tight to His fingers. He pulls me back to dancing, into life.
And Heís throwing my bread away. . . .
Oh, well. Maybe those are the songís real words. . . .
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